I drive this road that whips through woods at night
always searching ahead for the reflective eyes of deer
who will venture onto the grassy verge to browse.
Winter-snug in the warm interior of the car,
I am speeding in the vague nowhere between places,
an arithmetic problem in space and time
which passes slowly on this long solo haul.
I feed cassettes into the dash, light cigarettes,
check the softly lit panel of instruments
measuring motion, pressure, heat, the arcana of the engine,
but there is no red needle to indicate deer.
If I drill my eyes into the night long enough
I will hallucinate shapes in pockets of darkness,
not only deer peering from the fringes of trees,
but other anomalous animals: bison, zebra, even
fish floating in the dreamy pools of fog,
animals released from the mind's deep zoo,
animals we think we see in passing clouds
and in the connected dots of constellations.
Animals parading through the greenery of Eden,
animals on the turning pages of storybooks.
And always deer stepping from the sanctuary of woods,
bolting across the hard ribbon of road in shock,
locked in death-leaps in the sparkle of headlights.
At home as the motor cools in the driveway,
I will feel these rhythms in the quiet of the house.
I will see the heads of deer in the darkened bedroom
and a white flick of tail in the dresser mirror.
I will dream of the sensational touch of a buck's fur
and rock to sleep in the bow and lift of antlers.
- Billy Collins, 'Driving with Animals'
Tuesday, October 03, 2006
Coming down the mountain
4 days, 8 miles of walking, 900 miles of driving, 16 hours of flying time, 106 photographs and 7,800 calories later, I'm back. And while I struggle to regain control of my life and find the time to write a long, long post about the last four days, here's a lovely Billy Collins poem that describes the experience of driving in Montana, where deer are a constant menace on the highway, perfectly: