Artemis’s Caution

When you look at a deer

what do you see?

Carrier of ticks? Raider of you garden? Meat for your freezer?

Pest, scourge, rodent with antlers?

When you contemplate a deer,

the only large animal left to roam wild

in our woods, a brilliantly fired creature who bolts off

with lifted white tail, speed like a gazelle, consider

the soft-eyed deer dignifies our civil wilderness.

Arrowheads attest to their continuous presence here.

The fish the birds the trees the fields the coasts the sea

the ponds, the rain, the snow, the sun, and the deer

weave together this Island’s identity — before the human.

To kill the deer to protect us from black legged ticks

is like the Chinese trying to get rid of mosquitoes

by cutting down all the offending trees.

Enormous dust storms now engulf Beijing.

For that mistake the Chinese replant trees by the millions.

We should not want a place of creaturely emptiness,

where we would crave to bring back our vanquished deer.

We need to know better how to kill ticks and heal ourselves.

We need to know why deer, raccoons, skunks, mice and coyotes

do not seem to get tick or mosquito vectored diseases.

We need to know a great deal more,

but what I do know, by the light of all my full moons,

if we destroy an integral part of the Island’s fauna

the soul of the Island will begin to die a painful and

irremediable death,

which even I can not save with a quiver of my silver arrows.

— Fan Ogilve

West Tisbury Poet Laureate 2008-2011