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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About the Author

Carolyn Dahl is the 2020 winner of the Poetry of the Plains and Prairies chapbook contest for A Muddy Kind of Love, which will be published by North Dakota State University. Her 2019 chapbook, Art Preserves What Can’t Be Saved, was a first place winner in the National Federation of Press Women’s Communication contest, the Press Women of Texas’ contest, and also received an Honorable Mention in the Eric Hoffer Book Awards.

Carolyn Dahl
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