Photo of two brown deers

My hooves
search for firm ground
as panting I cross
the icy highway
that divides forest food from winter beds

I cross safely
my chestnut thighs surging
and I turn fast
to look back

My daughter
now nearly as large as I am
looking evermore the adult
stands still
in the middle of the road
her velvet female frame
haloed vulnerable by fast-approaching headlights

My breath catches in my lungs
threatening to suffocate me
as I watch helpless

I remember that same sweet fur
wet and blood-covered
as I licked my newborn clean
on a bed of springtime moss
under the oak tree
on the other side of the highway

Her birth
and a love that expanded the universe
made possible the terrible fear
of losing her
perhaps like this
haloed amber in the middle of the highway

The car breaks fast
skidding on nighttime ice
and a woman at the wheel
looks out through glass in fear
her eyes locking round
with the eyes of the unmoving doe

The mother in the car
begs the ice
to let her avoid the doe
and spare them both
so she can arrive safely home
to the young daughter
who sits up in bed
with her velvet female frame
waiting to be held


Poem by Alice Irene Whittaker

Alice Irene Whittaker is a writer working on Circular Living: Nature’s Lessons for a Regenerative World, a non-fiction book, as well as This Grateful Geography, a collection of nature poetry. Her essays and articles have been published in various newspapers and magazines. She has twice been shortlisted for the CBC Literary Awards, and was recently awarded an author’s fellowship for the Martha’s Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing. Alice Irene lives in a cabin in the woods in Quebec.

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