The fire shot up as a soft breeze passed the door

and I smelled fern. Watching the blue flames

the small petal-like teeth that sculpted


the pine log I imagined I wasn’t in Montana

now but dreamed in Fresno in the house

on Sawyer where the gauze curtains blew


and the blue flower’s scent suddenly filled

the bedroom. Ellen was alive just beyond

the window in the garden. Then she stood


by the bed, I hadn’t seen her enter, she was kissing

my cheek by my ear. She nipped me now

on the ear and I opened my eyes. Her dark eyes


looked into my mine, asking, waiting for an answer

a response I couldn’t find. But there weren’t

any words, I didn’t need them, all I had to do


was lift a hand to touch her face or take

her in my arms—The connection snapped

the big doe whirled in the room, sharp hooves


clattering and skidding on the wood floor

and terrified ran into the corner of the stone

fireplace under the elk head, bounced back


and spun again, cornered, staring crazily at me

before she left the ground, leaping through the open

doorway in one long streaming flash. I jumped up


and hurried to shut the door. Then breathing fast

I opened it, listening for the beating of hooves

above the hitting of my heart. I looked into shadow


for eyes reflecting the cabin’s light. I touched

my cheek, my ear where the deer had bitten

me. “Ellen?” Did I say it, or only think it? “Ellen!”


I called, my voice thin and frightened and weak.

No answer. Again the owl hooted, sending a thrill

down my neck. Pine boughs shifted in the breeze


above the black trunks. If I wanted I could take

a step, another, and I’d be running, faster.

I could see the flash of my shirt disappearing


among the trees. I studied the swaying branches

like dark wings. “No coat or gun, he hurried

forever into the cool night, to join the darkened


 green world,” a voice whispered at my shoulder.

The doe? Again I felt my ear, checked my

fingers for blood. The skin was unbroken. I stepped


back into the cabin, threw the bolt. I glanced

out the window past my white reflection

and sat in the chair by the fireplace, breathing


quickly, then slower, more calmly as the fire

cracked and I watched the flames flare blue

as the garden’s blue-faced flower whose scent


I tasted the May night I dreamed Ellen

had awakened and returned before I

woke to gauze curtains in the moonlight.


Photo Source: Hannibal’s Animals