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