"Wait"

A weekly poem, read by the author.
March 9 2010 7:02 AM

"Wait"

Click the arrow on the audio player to hear  Robert Wrigley read this poem. You can also download the recording or subscribe to Slate's Poetry Podcast on iTunes.
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He also finds the wood and steel beautiful,
and the slickness with which all the moving parts
slide open and shut, lifting and lodging
into place the sleek, copper-clad,
steel-jacketed projectile, which, weighing less
than half an ounce, will cover, once

the trigger is pulled, the 80 yards to the doe
in the time it would take him to blink.
He aligns the cross hairsof the scope
just behind her right shoulder, where the heart
pumps and the lungs, she being absolutely at ease
and grazing, exchange the same mountain air

he also breathes, though he breathes less easily,
since he hopes the single shot will kill her
cleanly and knows, even so, that
should such a clean kill be accomplished, still
he will mourn and be glad simultaneously and will
for the next hour or more be bathed in her blood

and intimate with the then-stilled machinery
of her living—the yards of guts, the probably full
bladder, the buttery liver, and more—nearly all
of which he will leave on the forest floor
and all of which but the head of her will, he is certain,
be gone within two days, a blessing for the coyotes

and the black-and-white custodial birds.  Even still
he has not yet squeezed the bullet free but breathes
with her to be free of her, allowing each breath
to elongate, allowing himself to see and to note
how the light snow that has been falling
all morning lands on her shoulders

and on the dry last leaves of the shrubs
just behind her and even, though he does not see it,
on the barrel of the rifle itself, some of which,
from the concussion of the shot, will fall away,
and some, due to the fire that accompanies it,
will melt and refreeze as ice as he works on her: the doe

who had discovered so close to the coming winter
the same patch of long and still-green mountain fescue
he himself found some weeks ago on a walk, the same day
he found this other spot as well—sheltered, slightly elevated—
from which the fine grass and all the ways to it could be seen, the day
he knew all he'd have to do was wait long enough, as he has.

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Robert Wrigley's books include Earthly Meditations: New & Selected Poems, Lives of the Animals, Reign of Snakes, and the forthcoming Beautiful Country. He teaches in the graduate writing program at the University of Idaho.