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…two yearling deer, almost invisible
are feeding by the side of the road.
Looking for them is useless, like looking
for grace. It appears suddenly, is gone
and ordinary life resumes.

Early morning deer in the fog
The other day as I was picking up some groceries at my local food co-op the woman ahead of me in line happened to strike up a conversation with the cashier about art and discipline. (These sorts of moments are why I love my neighborhood.) Naturally, my ears pricked up when the cashier spoke of his own daily practice of writing. When it was my turn to ring up the turnips and tempeh, I allowed as to how I’m interested in writing, too.

He reached behind him for a manilla envelope and pulled out a single sheet of paper: a poem. “The guy at the deli likes to read them,” he said when I asked if he always brought poetry to work. And then he read aloud to me. The poem about was unexpected grace: what a gift, on that September afternoon. My only regret is there was no one in line behind me to share it.

I hoisted the grocery bag on my shoulder and stepped outside into the sunlit parking lot. Someone was unloading a pallet of milk from a groaning truck. My two little dogs, tied to the fence, were leaping with their usual joy at my return. And ordinary life resumed.


Here’s the poem he read:

LEAVING WEST VIRGINIA

It is early on the morning after
time forgets itself one hour
and everything is gray:
the empty road, the mountains
the sky, the valleys foaming
with mists halfway up the peaks.
It is a wonder beyond words.

And in this vast silence, so still,
two yearling deer, almost invisible
are feeding by the side of the road.
Looking for them is useless, like looking
for grace. It appears suddenly, is gone
and ordinary life resumes.
The life of wide load vehicles
blinking with their early escorts,
ravens strutting cocksure, happy,
always guaranteed an early meal.

Yes, life resumes, the sky blushes.
Sacred radio music, this November Sunday,
accompanies me through this in between space.
And the deer remain in my mind
to remind me of how startling,
how subtle is this thing we call grace

—John Connor


John ConnorJohn Connor received a B.A. in English from St. Joseph’s University and an M. Ed. from Temple University. He spent a few years as a high school English teacher, and has worked with food for many years, as a cheese monger, and as a specialty food salesman. He has published essays in local newspapers, but this is his first poem in the public sphere, happening in the same year he received his Medicare card, making him an old/young poet.