[31] Ghost Deer, Robert L. Baldwin

They emerge as fire dies to embers,
spectral shapes, moving from cover of trees,
appearing as wraiths, practically floating
into the clearing. Their eyes aglow,
reflecting starlight; a million suns to guide
them across the eons towards
fresh greens that cushion the very spot
where we chose to pitch our tent.

With nary a glance, they proceed
into our squatters space, a circle of firelight.
We freeze, less from fear than amazement
that so many gentle souls would grace us
with their trust. The sound of hoof, breath, and jaw
merge with a human expression,
awe, becoming a grand fugue, accompanied by
night sounds of the forest and the sizzle of
pinion logs on their journey to ash.

We came to the edge of this
wilderness not for will-o’-the-wisps, but
to save what was left and remember
what had slipped away, greedy for connection,
inspiration, and smoke; never expecting to find
our legacy intertwined with
shadows from the dark.

The pale forms return several times
throughout the night, each visit
deeper with meaning. We
hardly sleep, yet start the next day early,
refreshed, awake, and hopeful for a life
of new connection, even as we, quiet,
douse the coals and bury evidence that
this once was a place of spiritual dawn.

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