Fawn in Sapsucker Woods
Happy to be sitting on the cool pond bank
in summer, stirring algae with long sticks,
my daughter and I watched tadpoles dart
around each other in wriggling circles.
She drew a quick breath and her eyes
popped wide when the first raindrops hit
the backs of our necks. All the old trees
around us shivered and turned their leaves.
“Uh-oh,” she said, and we ran along the trail
back toward home, our little white house
with garter snakes in the baseboards,
until she drew up mid-step, held in place
by a pair of eyes nearly level to her own,
the fawn as frozen in surprise as the girl.
Even the raindrops appeared to pause in air
as we all came to realize the encounter,
until the doe voiced her hoarse scold,
“Back, back,” she seemed to say.
They were gone with the white-flag-waving
flash of their tails, and the only sound
behind them was the rain resuming
its loud passage through leaf-heavy branches.
“Fawn in Sapsucker Woods,” excerpted from Merciful Days: Poems. Mercer University Press, 2020. Copyright © 2020 by Jesse Graves. All rights reserved. Jesse Graves is the author of four poetry collections, including Basin Ghosts and Specter Mountain, a collaboration with William Wright. His work received the James Still Award for Writing about the Appalachian South from the Fellowship of Southern Writers. He teaches at East Tennessee State University, where he is poet-in-residence and professor of English.