The woods in December are standing ruins
As she emerges in the bright cold sun,
Fording the back lot's drifts of white powder
Like a ruddy little devil in Heaven.
A claque of snowbirds
Denounce her from the branches.
Just when winter seemed out of tricks: a sleight of red fox.
Her audience in the frozen windows,
Captive because snowbound,
Remembers its privilege of forgetting her for months on end.
No one runs out with a bowl or a leash.
No one's been calling her home.
We are intrigued
And the dogs are outraged,
Because her equanimity
Is also her insolence,
And her first false blush
Is the perpetual dawn of her freedom.
Father, forgive her!—
She knows exactly what's she's doing,
This thief who knows that property is theft—
That when she's stealing from us
She's stealing back.
The will of the wolf we have bent our way—
Not so the fox's.
Fluent in the winter silence,
With her sassily stiff trot
And that oversized duster of a tail
That can't be her own,
She's been tracking the frozen marshes
On her rounds of the muskrat lodges,
Matching the morning's prints
Of a hare through the naked bramble,
Crouched on her haunches,
Watching a gray squirrel's
Antics in a pine-top
With unfeigned curiosity
And gnawing hunger—
Then she earned a furbearing morsel
In her highway robbery
Of the under-snow railroads of the voles.
All winter she banks her own fire.
Her sharp clear bark in the frightening cold
Says the fox-year is shorter than the dog-year.
But let the retriever bay at the end of its leash.
Let the lapdog yap from its window by the fire.
Let them beg and fetch and roll over
Answer to Jerry or Fluffy
And slink to their bowl of slaughterhouse offal—
Crazy like a dog.
Though small enough for the lap of luxury—
Small enough to be hellbound
In a handbasket,
She'll earn her own death, thank you.
It seems she arrived
To show us
More of her magic:
How with a glance away
And a glance back—
Our prodigal trickster
Matching wits with another winter
Aspiring to be her last.
You could say the vixen is swathed
In rabbit, muskrat and squirrel,
Like all of us,
This last red daughter of the forests—
This other red native who couldn’t be made a slave: