Oregon State Correctional Institute, Dusk
Leaving for the night,
I pass through the open courtyard
from the prison-proper
to the gatehouse guarding the parking lot.
I can hear tired clamoring
shouts, and singing through the open
windows – perhaps noise
for the sake of noise; easier to think
than a chaotic expression of loss.
In and out of the gatehouse
with a final click and hiss,
I walk across the visitor lot
ready for the long drive home.
The wall-guard drives just ahead of me –
the white Prius turning as the East wall ends,
continuing, perhaps infinitely around.
Reaching the road, I stop to watch a deer
scanning for her fawns – three just behind,
one – nearly full white with spots – still
assessing its leap over the barbed wire fence.
It seems stuck in its wild vigilance,
new and confused, missing the instinct to move.
I wait, the mother waits –
her fawn scans across the open field.
Its left ear twitches, looking ahead for a moment
before bowing, head down, to nibble
on a blackberry bush along the fence line.
Illuminated in my headlights
three fawns and their mother cross the road.
She slows, nearly stopping just ahead of me,
dead center at the median to let her fawns pass,
keeping them in her sight. Her care
seems no less, even as her weakest remains stuck –
not knowing what is moving away.
You would have made a different decision
I tell myself before taking a last look
back at the frozen fawn
backlit by the cell block lights in the distance.
I turn right onto the highway,
accelerating through exhausted quiet.
Althea Seloover, 2020