David Baker

December 9, 2012 Baker David



The fawn was

born beneath the hydrangea I had mistaken,

for a year, as a young oak.


I squatted there. No

fear. It lay alone

in the leaves, and at my near touch a tuft


of its skin (you couldn’t

call it

hide, barely fur, still birth-


smeared in smatters

of pale gray spots)—

one tuft of skin quivered, as


though cold.

Even this first day

the doe had gone to find herself


something to eat

in a better yard. Error on

error, a life amasses.


Do you believe

the old poet?—not

to be born is reckoned best


of all.

Well, let’s ask

the birddog gagging at his chain


two yards over, bloody with boredom.

Ask the night-

black vultures, kettling


over the neighbor’s burn pile.

I had somewhere

to go. I don’t know where, but


how could it

matter, so much, to go?

Smell of snow an hour


before it falls,

then doesn’t. Soft leather

nose of the fawn, wet in my palm


where it nestled its warm

jaw in. To make

a cathedral (I should have stayed) of such things . . .

David Baker‘s eighteen books include Swift: New and Selected Poems (W. W. Norton, 2019), Show Me Your Environment: Essays on Poetry, Poets, and Poems (University of Michigan, 2014), and Never-Ending Birds (W. W. Norton), which was awarded the Theodore Roethke Memorial Poetry Prize in 2011.  He lives in rural Ohio and is Poetry Editor of The Kenyon Review.