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New Snow

Why now do I care to look—
though everything outlined in these woods
makes itself known: prints of a snowshoe hare,
long narrow pods in pairs, slightly dug-in at the heels
as they hop forward; the chipmunk's and vole's faint
gifted script, and one ribbon of something
curving out on the pond's blank surface.
All these have crossed the trail, never directly
forward, where my boots trudge right and left
like a one-man army dragging through the dead of white.

I know they watch—no animal trusts
what a human might pursue—as I watch
for their unmoving silence in the falling snow, their ways
drawing me through the narrow gaps the deer have made,
revealing the emptiness deeper in, and yes,
there it is: the old oak with a block carved out,
the wounded trunk already dead, shirred off.
And eye-level in that exact inner space, a lady's shoe:
satin tattered to its bones,
a pitted rhinestone fan on top, one scar of ruby red,
and jammed in the toe, a rock to keep the shape.
Why not black with rot by now, this bridal shoe in a tree
I couldn't find in the dense green and gold seasons,
when it mattered.

Cleopatra Mathis

Book of Dog
Sarabande Books

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