Milton J. Bates


Except for a seething rice of maggots,
the twisted rag of fur and flesh
lies still beside the highway, nature morte.

Then the implausible happens:
ravens land and drop the eyes back in,
lustrous black and fat as plums.

The coat zips up and swells with meat.
Enamel brightens on the teeth.
The hooves glisten with wet lacquer.

A bloody ten-yard smear connects
the carcass to a car speeding in reverse,
its headlights diminishing to pinpricks.

The creature takes the impact in mid-stride.
Then with hind legs levering backwards
it retreats tail-first into the woods.

There it pauses, looking past the highway
at a moonlit trail leading to a cornfield.
The plum-eyed doe can see exactly

where it has to go. It levers forward
on its haunches, steps onto the pavement,
and takes the impact in mid-stride.

Milton J. Bates has published nonfiction books on the poet Wallace Stevens, the Vietnam War, and the Bark River valley in southeastern Wisconsin. His poems have appeared in the Great Lakes Review, Midwestern Gothic, the Wallace Stevens Journal, and other magazines. He lives in Marquette, Michigan.

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