They call me “One-Shot” Fontainbleau —
That nickname was well-earned, although
I’m not so sure it’s still deserved.
Along the road where saplings curved
And branched like antlers from the banks,
And parted from my truck in ranks,
One winter evening, all alone
I drove up to a tract I own —
A hundred acres, virgin wood
And ash and maple swamp, a good
Seventy-five miles north of here.
I thought I’d go and bag a deer.
I’d taken care to clean my gun,
The one I plan to leave my son.
It fed my family years ago,
That winter we were boiling snow
To drink, because the farm wells froze.
I polished it from butt to nose —
The parts gleamed like a pirate’s hoard.
I thought of how that rifle roared
From harvest-home until spring thaw,
And roared its harvest home, blood-raw.
My sixty-seventh summer’s gone.
Three score a hunter, reckoned on
Thirty score hides. There’s none to waste.
Keen eyes, keen ears, and keen’s my taste
For venison, as if honed by
The flint of a December sky,
Or twin tines of the crescent moon.
When morning broke, I knew that soon
A buck would come, or lynx, or bear,
To taste the sharpness of the air —
To see the self-same things I did:
A setting moon that peeped and hid;
Above the cabin, faint blue stars;
The pinpoint lights of distant cars;
A stand of birch that breathed a song
As the wind murmured. But it’s wrong
To rate the greatest with the least;
A man’s a man, a beast’s a beast.
Lost in a wide and sparkling sea,
With drifts on either side of me,
I couldn’t let myself forget
What I was doing there, and yet
I knew I could enjoy that chill
And snowy dawn, without a kill.
I heard a startled raven caw.
The biggest doe I ever saw
Was standing by a reedy pool
Against the brambles. That black jewel
Had lured the forest queen to drink.
I raised my gun. I didn’t blink
In case I only winged the deer.
Clean shot, clean kill, then out of here.
As calm as death, I took my aim
Straight at her heart. I couldn’t maim
A deer, who’s used to running wild.
I never could be reconciled
With causing pain so clumsily.
I’ve seen deer leave a rosary
Of ruby drops upon the snow,
Stumbling for miles before they know
It’s over. Well, the rifle’s kick
Wasn’t what bowled me over. Quick
As thought, I saw the bullet hit
The water, and my quarry flit,
Lost in a flame of rising light!
I saw her tail retreating, white
As frosty beams on fleeting foam.
A week went by. I was at home,
When suddenly, my wife calls, “Fon!
Look, in the middle of the lawn —
The biggest doe you’ll ever see,
As bold as brass, and watching me.
She’s at the picture window now —”
And there she was. I noticed how
Her pointed russet muzzle gleamed,
And how her rapid breathing steamed
A patch of vapor, crescent-shaped,
On the cold glass, as it escaped
Above a row of ivory teeth
Like polished headstones, underneath
The velvet lip that she’d drawn back;
The eyes that held me were deep black,
And, deep within their blackness, bright,
Like pools that hold a winter’s night.
© 2001 by Ellin Anderson. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be copied or used in any way without written permission from the author.