Animal Control

Spiked wrought-iron fences stripe the landscape.
Deer roaming, nosing the wind for fruit.
Seven of them, but only one ambles down
the embankment between highway and fence.

A hatchback howls by and the doe scuttles
uphill, dust clouds rising phantomlike.
Then the fence, the miscalculated leap, the animal
speared and clattering on the iron bars.

The doe bleeding out her life means little
to the boy who finds her crucified.
With a twig he pokes the black orb of her eye,
summons his brothers and together

they pummel the animal with rocks and dirt,
sticks and dirt, the blade of a shattered bottle
and more dirt, handfuls flung and falling
in veils of brown over the doe’s face.

When twilight turns the sky to plum, the boys
pedal home, quick as leopards on their bikes.
Their hands in the sink and a shushing faucet
before grace at the dinner table, before Father

divides the meatloaf and Mother spoons out the peas.
Manners always, the discipline of a backhand
if one should speak with food inside his mouth.
Then one speaks with food inside his mouth.