Sharing the Kale

This December, starving, the deer found the garden
remnants for the first time. I haven’t caught them in the act,
but there are divots where sharp hooves sunk, plunging
into the sodden lawn, still not hardened this winter.
The kale that usually winters over, sweetening
with each frost, has been chewed down to thick stumps.
Normally this time of year, I harvest the magic remains,
relishing each leaf as a gift for simmering and sautéing,
and remarking to my husband on the miracle
of survival—of thriving when life should wither.
Death is assumed during a Maine winter,
if not death, then a waiting,
slow and deep, for Spring’s relief.
But the kale defies: makes its own antifreeze,
turns sweet, fills soup, sustains.

This year the yard is soggy and mange eats
at the herd. How hard did ribs push against hide before
they crept from the woods, crossed the road,
hooves tapping, eyes wild.
Hunger feeds their nerve—
there aren’t enough trees, there isn’t enough roughage,
and I wonder how far my little garden got them,
how many nights they visited, nibbling in secret the leaves
that would have kept growing each time I sheared
and gathered, embracing cold, outsmarting death.