Jessica Purdy

For Mark DeCarteret

I come upon a scene in the dark on the road home
after feeding your cat as you recover.
A deer in the middle of the road looks as if it’s resting
settling down to sleep maybe, but then I see the blood,
greasy as black oil in my headlights,

and a woman pulled over on her phone.
I stop and ask if she’s all right
thinking she must be the one who hit the deer
but no, she’s only the one calling the police

whoever did hit the deer is gone
and all the people and cars pulling over
are a microcosm of a world
that illuminates suffering and dying.

The blue lights come —
their order-inducing panic —
the officer steps out
draws his weapon,
says nothing.

I think he hates this
I can tell by the way
he aims, checks, aims again
so he won’t miss and cause more pain.

I cover my ears and the shot
is nothing I can prepare for;
the deer’s head simply drops hard
the plumes of breath that had been vapor
dissipate, dissolve into the air

like the cars and people who soon leave
the road in darkness
the culprit just one of the bad in all this good.