when the chill that rises up from the ground is warmed,
the snow is melted
where the small deer slept.
See how the bodies leave their mark.
The snow reveals their paths on the hillsides,
the white overcrossing pathways into the upper meadows
where water comes forth and streams begin.
With a new snow the unseen becomes seen.
Rivers begin this way.
At the deer dance last year,
after the clashing forces of human good and evil,
the men dressed in black,
the human women mourning for what was gone,
the evergreen sprigs carried in a circle
to show the return of spring.
That night, after everything human was resolved,
a young man, the chosen, became the deer.
In the white skin of its ancestors,
wearing the head of the deer
above the human head
with flowers in his antlers, he danced,
beautiful and tireless,
until he was more than human,
until he, too, was deer.
Of all those who were transformed into animals,
the travelers Circe turned into pigs,
the woman who became the bear,
the girl who always remained the child of wolves,
none of them wanted to go back
to being human. And I would do it, too, leave off being human
and become what it was that slept outside my door last night.
One evening I hid in the bush south of here
and watched at the place where they shed their antlers
and where the deer danced, it was true,
as my old grandmother said,
water came up from the ground
and I could hear them breathing at the crooked river.
The road there I know, I live here,
and always when I walk it
they are not quite sure of me,
looking back now and then to see that I am still
far enough away, their gray-brown bodies,
the scars of fences,
the fur never quite straight,
as if they’d just stepped into it.