Tread lightly through the forest branch
Disturb not the sleeping peace of cunning predator.
Too soon the hunter’s horn will sound the death-knell
of your tender breed.
Lap quickly the nourishing drops that flow in freshets
from a careless spring,
Tarry not long to quench your thirst
Lest your brittle life be fast extinguished
In the hungry jaws of the lurking beast.
Fly, fly at the sound of crackling leaf
The scent of death upon the air.
Stay not, wide-eyed in frozen fear
To gaze upon a shadow poised
with outstretched arm.
One second lost and fire and thunder
shall rip the dark
Let not your russet coat be splayed with blood
And tacked upon an unworthy wall—
Tribute to the victor’s
Your proud rack hanging
By a wire and a screw.
(Previously published in ken*again, May 2001)