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The brindled red and gray dog eating the air above the line of fences, and the air a thick, bitter oil at the base of the throat.

Some deer live in tent nets of branches aching down with a lead apron of snow.

Some deer live behind ruined cars in the broken snow and slicked junk at the foot of the ravine.

And now some deer punch the piss-tinted slush in the frozen peat, and some deer break free of the fog of red-wire scrub branches.

All around, the fog of the paper mill littering the snow with the wrist-warm bodies of dead birds.

And now, as if caught in slow liquid, dogs across the blank field running.

Now as if they were horses, leaping fences, then pouring around the ruined shed, the empty scrabble of dogs up rotted timber.

And the cattail stubble rattling in the frozen wet and dry light, and heat pushed to the tips of the hairs, softening the white edges of frozen spit gathered at the muzzle.

Dogs singling out the deer with hind legs angled like the broken dowels of a snagged kite, and moving backward now through the floating spaces behind the eye.

And deer gunning through the small branches, powderlight frost sifting onto the sunken tire rims.

Posted 01/15/12
Published in Shendandoah (Fall 2009)
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