The house painter was leading a walk-through,
three days of spraying and staining done,
a couple of his friends tailing us
with open cans of color,
their own faces leathered,
tejano pop songs playing still
in the April sun.

‘Did you build these trails?’ he asked.
We skirted blue spruce, slid on the shingled slope
down to the woodshop.
‘No, the deer built them.’
I motioned to a pair of does
in the shadow of the olive tree.
‘Do you hunt them?’ he brightened.
‘Is it legal? Probably not legal…’

We slowed above the arroyo.
‘Hunt them? They’re family,’ I answered.
‘We watch their kids grow up —
two of them last year,
under the walkway you painted.’
But how to tell him?
About the fawn in the ditch,
the legs of stags cut apart on fences,
the lazy circles of turkey vultures
over the prairie grass.
Loss is older than hunters, I want to say.
In this fat country even their natural deaths
are in our flesh,
and not vacant, vestigial
like a tailbone,
the impotent muscles of our ears,
or what is left of a third eyelid,
couched, reptilian
against our tears.

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