To the Animal Tribes

Thank you, spirit of the deer tribe
for appearing in three cantering shapes
the color of woods-shadow, each
hesitating at the edge of the road
till they recognized us and bounded across,
vanishing in forest-light again
while we sat idling, incognito
in our tinted glass, disguised in our clothes
on our way to the council

Ever since we left blacktop
for the long sandy straightaway
into the forest, we kept passing the signs of war:
four-by-fours and double-wheeled
pickups parked along the ditches,
men with rifles and coolers in swivel chairs
on the roofs of their vans

Thank you, spirit of the snake tribe
for appearing in your intricate
armor, many-colored
pygmy rattler over a foot long
almost invisible in the brown grass
where a lake has disappeared
since the last time we met here to consider
the year to come

Men in Washington hold photographs
taken from satellites
up to the light, selecting “military
targets,” experts on T.V.
recite their wagers and
the factory where they make the bodybags
is hiring

Thank you, spirits of the infinitesimal frog
and phosphorescent green
grasshopper tribes, tribes of prickly pear,
palmetto and pine, spirit of the symbiosis
of live-oak and Spanish moss,
spirit of the osprey circling high above the branch
where we’ve tied our kitchen-tarp

Jetstreams overhead point the way
to the hotels of Disney World,
the sprinklers of Orlando,
the million engines of the empire
sucking the life out of the ground,
the miles of lights
burning their nightly quota of whatever time
is left

And again, spirit
of the deer, for incarnating
out of the moonlight when we were
lost on the path, looking for this place—
so far ahead we couldn't tell who it was
gazing down the alley of darkness
till you recognized us a second time and turned
to vanish

(Only then,
your sleek side turning
in the full moon's ecstasy
deflected from the other side,
only then did we know you,
friend and guide)