Three Deer in Oquossoc
by Sonja Johanson
East will take me back. I drive
west. I wend between snowbanks,
until the road delivers me
to a sleeping boat launch.
They stand on the frozen ramp;
watch me with coats that are
better than mine. Ice houses
and snowmobiles edge the distance.
I have to turn around, I say
to them, I went the wrong
way. They stamp and chuff.
No, they tell me, this is the way.
Poem copyright ©2015 by Sonja Johanson, “Three Deer in Oquossoc,” from Plum Tree Tavern, (2015).
PHOTO: Group of white-tailed deer in the woods of Rangeley, Maine. Photo by Jeffrey Holcombe, used by permission.
NOTE: Oquossoc is an unincorporated village in the town of Rangeley, Franklin County, Maine. The community is located at the junction of Maine State Route 4 and Maine State Route 17 at the northwest tip of Rangeley Lake.
IMAGE: Location of Oquossoc within the State of Maine.
NOTE: Maine is home to one of the largest of the 30 recognized subspecies of white-tailed deer. After reaching maturity at age five, bucks can achieve weights of nearly 400 pounds, but average 200 to 300 pounds, while standing 36 to 40″ at the shoulder. Does weigh 120 to 175 pounds, with newborn fawns starting life at 4 to 10 pounds and growing to about 85 pounds during their first six months. White-tailed deer are herbivores, grazing on most available plant foods. Their stomachs allow them to digest a varied diet, including leaves, twigs, fruits and nuts, grass, corn, alfalfa, and even lichens and other fungi. Whitetails have reddish brown fur in the summer switching to a grayish brown in winter. Their trademark white tail, when raised, flashes a danger signal to other deer in the vicinity. Whitetails have keen hearing, made possible by large ears that can rotate toward suspicious sounds. They have wide-set eyes, enabling them to focus on subtle movements while maintaining an excellent sense of depth perception. Whitetails have a keen sense of smell, enabling them to sense danger, even when visibility is poor. They have long graceful legs, enabling them to cover ground quickly by leaping, bounding, turning, and running at speeds up to 40 miles per hour. Deer are very expressive; they employ a large repertoire of signals using facial expressions and body language. Deer have a life expectancy of 18 years, but rarely achieve that in the wild, due to human and animal predators. (SOURCE: maine.gov)
PHOTO: Young buck in Maine woods, spring. Photo by Yan Xiang, used by permission.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sonja Johanson is a New England poet whose work focuses on ecology and feminism. She has work appearing in numerous journals and anthologies, including American Life in Poetry, BOAAT, Mid-American Review, Poet Lore, THRUSH, and the Best American Poetry blog, and has served as a contributing editor at the Found Poetry Review and Eastern Iowa Review. Her poetry chapbooks include Impossible Dovetail (IDES, Silver Birch Press), all those ragged scars (Choose the Sword Press), and Trees in Our Dooryards (Redbird Chapbooks). She divides her time between work in Massachusetts and her home in the mountains of western Maine. Visit her at sonjajohanson.net.