The deer know what it means
to be deer. They do not shy
from it. They do not desire
to be a woodchuck or a man.
They do not seek abundance
or love. The knowledge of God
appears to them in orderly rows
of orange squash. They do not
know tragedy. They do not shirk
from inattentive headlights.
Their souls are unburdened;
their souls feed on the hunger
of creatures that adore them.
“Observe Wildlife at a Distance”
Sleeping Bear Dunes Visitors Guide
The lake doesn’t think of itself as wild,
especially not in the way of the small coyote
I swerve to miss on the narrows of Glen Lake,
the creature less concerned about the harm
my car might cause than about the ranger
whose pickup and live-trap passes me
moments later going in the other direction.
How casual, this encounter of wilderness
and tourism, and so appropriate here, as if
staged by the Park Service for those visitors
from places where coyotes are a nuisance,
trapped and pelted, endowed to kill small pets.
In my rearview, I watch the young pup leave
the road, loping to the narrow rocky shore
and the lake’s disinclination—two of a kind—
indifferent to those of us just passing by.
Phillip Sterling has served as Artist-in-Residence for Isle Royale National Park and Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. He is the author of And Then Snow and Mutual Shores, and four chapbook-length series of poems.P&W Profile