Old branches crack as Edmonia breaks
a path through the woods. She wants
to outrun fury, or at least make a distance
between herself and the poison spoken
at Oberlin. The school is a shop where she can’t buy,
a supper she’s never meant to taste,
a holiday she can’t celebrate
though she doesn’t want to be left out.
She runs under trees taller than those in town,
where they’re sawed into lumber,
turned into tables, rifles, or walls.
These woods are as close to home
as she may ever again get.
When she was given a chance to go
to boarding school, her aunts’ farewell was final.
People who move into houses
with hard walls don’t return to homes
that can be rolled and carried on backs.
Edmonia crouches to touch tracks
of birds and swift squirrels sculpted in snow,
the split hearts of deer hooves.
Boot prints are set far enough apart
to tell her the trespasser is tall,
shallow enough to guess he’s slender.
Her cold breath stops, like ice.
She looks up at a deer whose dark gaze
binds them, turns into trust.
Then a branch breaks. The deer flees.