The Dead Yearling

by Virginia Bennett

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The Dead Yearling

The low-growth bushes had just started to bud
And the first blades of grass began to appear
As my mare picked her way through the rocks and the mud
Wearing her first set of shoes for the year.

Raucous crows winged their effortless way
Up over the ridge and clean out of sight.
And I rejoiced in the promise of a longer day
Followed by window breezes on a shortened night.

The vows that spring made of renewal and hope,
As I rode along, I succumbed to their sound
And when we topped the saddle in one last, lurching lope,
I delighted in finally riding on bare ground.

Yes, spring beckoned softly of new life, new birth.
But, when we scrambled down the other side, I saw
A dead yearling deer lying on the sun-warmed earth
At the foot of a cliff on the other side of the draw.

I reined my horse over to it. She found her way with care
And I thought almost out loud about its death,
Why did he wait to die until the green grass filled the air?
Why didn’t winter claim his last breath?

He’d made it through that first, tough year
Of being a weanling and surviving on his own senses.
He’d obviously made it and been able to clear
In flightless bounds those lethal wire fences

Why did he choose to give up the ghost
On this needle-covered, pine-coned forest floor
At just the time when the earth gives her most?
He could’ve made it if he’d held on a few days more.

He lies there, a metaphor of mundane rules,
The epitome of a worn-out cliché
Leave the romancing to old women and fools,
Stand here and grasp what has happened on this day.

“With the good comes the bad,” that’s what they say,
It’s a truth that outweighs all the lies.
But it’s fact that for every birth on some warm, spring day,
Somewhere, all alone, something dies.

© Virginia Bennett

VIRGINIA BENNETT worked on ranches in several western states for 35 years until a work-related horse wreck put the whoa on her cowboying and writing. She has written several books, including In the Company of Horses, and edited two anthologies, Cowgirl Poetry: One Hundred Years of Ridin’ and Rhymin’ and Cowboy Poetry: The Reunion. Bennett lives in Goldendale, Washington, with her husband, Pete.

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