The only possible connection
between my father and John Keats
rests on their joint recognition
of the deer's shift leap. For Keats,
that deer is little more than a conceit
to complete a sonnet's line,
but for my father, that deer's leap
figured the elusive target
in a hunter's late initiation.
Not born to hunt, he moved
us to a rural Missouri community
in the forties where the currency
of male social exchange spun
on the eye's dime sighted down
a rifle barrel. Each year, the men
waited for the three-day season
to fill their waiting freezers
with meat for the winter. Each year,
my father's errant shots did little more
than accelerate the leap of wily bucks,
the cunning of six-point patriarchs.
For him, the doe's sudden bolt
across the car's light at night
became the stuff of sacred magic.