I’ve been working on this poem for the last three days, thinking I could repurpose some video I shot back in March 2008 and only shared in black-and-white form at the time (see Rabid fox). The story has been simplified slightly, but most of that simplification is a consequence of memory’s alembic — I did not refer to my earlier post before completing the video.
The gray fox was sitting in the driveway
when we got up. A blessing, we thought,
returning its gaze from the veranda.
To have found a place in the cool regard
of a creature so at home in the forest
& so seldom seen by day — it felt
like a message: that we belong here
on the mountain, that our presence
is acceptable. We were already
rehearsing the story we’d tell about it
as it got to its feet, that lovely animal
the color of ash & flame, & trotted
up past the garage & out of sight.
We’re still basking in the warm glow
of chosenness when later that day
we see it again, wandering in circles
around the stark sunlit field. Now
it wears a beard of bloody foam
& keeps shaking its head as if
something has it by the throat.
We watch through binoculars
as it sinks into the grass & disappears,
then rises again: undead. Rabid.
What we took for friendliness
is instead a violent kind of taming,
the virus robbing it of every wild instinct.
I get close & watch as long as I
can stand to. Its jaw works & works.
Its eyes close for long moments.
If my presence registers at all, I doubt
I’m anything but one more, minor torment.
The brief convulsion after
the bullet shatters its skull is almost
refreshing to watch — a return to
the expected order of things.
I dig a deep grave between the roots
of a wild black cherry, break the brick-
red clods with the back of my shovel
& trickle the soil over that shining coat.