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Poem by Emily Dickinson

A WOUNDED deer leaps highest,
I ’ve heard the hunter tell;
’T is but the ecstasy of death,
And then the brake is still.

The smitten rock that gushes,
The trampled steel that springs:
A cheek is always redder
Just where the hectic stings!

Mirth is the mail of anguish,
In which it caution arm,
Lest anybody spy the blood
And “You ’re hurt” exclaim!


I can imagine Emily upstairs. Looking outside her window with pen in hand and tablet on table. Perhaps it was deer season in the woods outside her house. Perhaps the menses were upon her. Thoughts of blood and death might have filled the spinster's head. Could I have entered that room from some doorway that isn't there, I'd have undone her lacy cotton dress and peeled off the layers of underthings and shown Emily what fall afternoons are for.


A wounded deer leaps highest,
I've heard the hunter tell;


The most awful image you can ever have planted in your memory is that of an animal hit by a car on the highway when the four-legged animal is not killed, but has its hindquarters broken in such a way that it uses its forepaws in a desperate attempt to drag itself to some sort of relief. I've seen it twice, and I hope to never see it again. The look of anguish on that animal's face, in slow motion as cars and trucks speed past in what must seem like a terrible blur, is beyond horror.


'T is but the ecstasy of death,
And then the brake is still.


What would Emily have said upon my indifferent interruption of not only her reverie but the entire time-space continuum? I suspect she would have taken it more in stride than most. I imagine her as having vivid hallucinations, anyway. So, the chances are good that I would have been treated as a waking dream. I doubt she'd have ever seen a dream with such purpose in mind. I think I would have undressed completely as she watched, before even bothering to step near enough to touch her.


The smitten rock that gushes,
The trampled steel that springs:


Yesterday afternoon, as I was crossing the bridge that separates me from the North by way of a very large river, I entered the flatland on the other side. A large doe came bounding from the woods to my right and passed in great haste just in front of a 2000 Toyota Camry which I'd been following for a few miles. I became fixed in awe that this event caused no disruption in northbound traffic on the Interstate at all. And, just as I was in the middle of amazement at this happenstance, I turned to see the doe flee across the median (the last time her live feet would touch grass) and get thrown at least 10 feet violently into the air as she collided with a Dodge Caravan doing around 70 MPH going south. Going south much slower now. With less grillwork.


A cheek is always redder
Just where the hectic stings!


Once I'd worked my way through Emily's multilayer shields from herself, even though I'd be throbbing with want, I'd calm her with tales of the future. A future when she would be the words for generations to come. I'd forecast her fame and renown and make her see that this was not just a willful twist of misfortune that led her to this pen and this bedside notebook and this lonely watching of the world. This would excite her very much. The rest would not be discussed in words by me.


Mirth is the mail of anguish,
In which it caution arm,


On the way back home a couple of hours later, I entered the area of the accident. I was watching as closely as you can when doing the speed limit on an Interstate, and I did see a small deer lying dead in the grass in the area. But it was several feet from where the actual event had occurred just earlier. This was surely a lost fawn which had been killed previously. The animal I watched fly into the heavens, as its eyes and hooves must have longed for that small patch of grass in the median, had been much, much larger and so much more important.


Lest anybody spy the blood
And "You're hurt" exclaim!

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