Wally Swist
The New Life

The New Life

The Red Fox

I am sure of the tracks
      this morning in new snow
            that veer off the meadow path

past the conical stumps
      bordering the edge of young willows
            and angle towards the beaver lodge

beyond the dogleg of the brook
      from which a cloud of steam drifts
            downstream heading south.

Doubling back out of the grove,
      I lose sense of its direction, but
      as I look up, I see the fox there

in the meadow, high-stepping
      in the snow, moving with stealth
            to study the ground as it follows

mouse tracks between snow tunnels.
      It does not see me until it stops
            just ten yards away, and I cease

breathing as it lifts its head, eyes wide
      and as bright as black agates, the hue
            of its coat ecstatic in the sunlight,

and for an instant we are locked
      in stillness before it streaks past
            birch and poplar and into a thicket

of white pine to disappear so quickly
      it leaves a tint that lingers like breath
            on the cold morning air.

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