The 2River View 22.1 (Fall 2017)

Phillip Sterling

The Nature of Salvation

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

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