Two days of snow, then ice
and the deer peer from the ragged curtain of trees.
Hunger wills them, hunger
pulls them to the compass of light
spilling from the farmyard pole.
They dip their heads, hold
above snow, turn furred ears
to scoop from the wind
the sounds of hounds, or men.
They lap at a sprinkling of grain,
pull timid mouthfuls from a stray bale.
The smallest is lame, with a leg
healed at angles, and a fused knob
where a joint once bent.
It picks, stiff, skidding its sickening limb
across the ice's dark platter.
Their fear is thick as they break a trail
to the center of their predator's range.
To know the winter
is to ginger forth from a bed in the pines,
to search for a scant meal
gleaned from the carelessness
of a killer.