Deer, a jackrabbit the size of a motorcycle.
– Tim Lilburn
Hit quick, the road-wasted stag
fell like the sick sorrel horse
we hunted by syringe
in a 3 x 5 pen. His fallen
drew out our awe, lying
on his own canvas of blood,
iron tailings from a ran-down mill.
Overcoated men with leather bags
of tinctures and bitters
couldn’t bring him around.
Witnesses stood, arms crossed,
afraid their hands might reach
for the debris of muscle guyropes
knifed by the blunt bumper of an SUV.
Looking aside I saw
a young woman come out
of the woods and work
her way through the crowd,
coming to rest in a kneel
at the buck’s breast.
We moved to halt her
but she heeled us with one hand
while the other slid to his snapped
sapling crown. She rubbed her fingers
gently down his brow, grappling his snout
to bring his half-yard of neck right round.
Notes on the PoemIn "Making Sure", Jeramy Dodds strikingly juxtaposes horror with reverence and kindness. What does that extreme clash of words and images achieve? Sadly, collisions between the natural and manmade worlds are both commonplace and frequently at nature's expense. Strangely, the collisions on a grand scale might not always register with the individual, but the one-on-one collisions are often brutal, intimate and profound. Dodds captures this with succinct power in the encounter between stag and SUV. Even in the midst of gruesome calamity, Dodds finds perverse beauty in the felled stag's "figure-skater sprawl" and "canvas of blood." Perceiving the situation in that way probably reflects both the beholder's literal shock in the moment, but perhaps is also a tribute to the gorgeous animal upon reflection much later. Dodds forges a series of successive images, most tellingly of gestures, that tell the story in swift but ultimately merciful strokes. The witnesses with their "arms crossed" convey fear and futility. As the young woman appears and is "coming to rest in a kneel", it is as if she is going to say a prayer - her attitude is worshipful and respectful. How the young woman "heeled us with one hand" illustrates grace and determination (and the "us" quietly acknowledges that the narrator is one of the fearful who doesn't know how to respond to what the "blunt bumper of the SUV" has rendered). Her following gestures are shocking and tender in rapid succession. With the poem's last abrupt image, the poem's title then comes into both focus and sharp relief. The young woman has made sure to finish what others have been unable to confront. It's troubling, but conclusive and compassionate.