Spotting Animals

My father drives slowly, headlights off. One hand on the car’s
wheel, one working the silver spotlight soaking the road’s edges
with roving circles of white light.

I, in the back seat, window open, lean into the black night.
Weeds scratch the door, unseen things rustle, twitter, whistle at stars.
The spotlight rakes the poles of white birch trees

in bark-peeling light, plunges back into wooded shadows,
a strobe flickering. “Watch for sudden color, a mirror-flash
of animal eye: raccoon orange, fox red, or deer green.”

The car slides to a stop. I catch my breath as he holds an animal
in the beam of light, emerald eyes mesmerized by a man-made eye.
The buck stands alone. Particles of light dance in its fur,

glisten from antlers bright as a holiday card. In this moment,
my father is a shaman of the spotlight, taking the pulse
of a deer, loosing his hunter instinct to adoration.

Without the distance of a scope, the eyes are too like his own.
He didn’t know light would be an intersection of philosophies,
or that deer would come, their heads surrounded by halos.

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Carolyn Dahl

Carolyn Dahl was the Grand Prize winner in the national 2015 Public Poetry/MFAH poetry competition ARTlines2 and a finalist in the Work-Themed poetry contest and the 2018 Malovhr-Fenlon contest. Her essays and poems have been published in 25 anthologies and in various literary journals. She is the co-author of The Painted Door Opened, received grants from the Texas Commission on the Arts, fellowships to Hedgebrook and the Writer's Colony @Dairy Hollow, and won a finalist award from PEN Texas in nonfiction.

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