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One Story of Conversion

I was trying to tell my neighbor about Saint Eustace,
he thought I was talking about
the guy just east of us —
who rotated the sprinklers on the front lawn
and then, strolling in a nearby park,
had an out-of-body experience.

Eustace was in the woods, I said;
he wore tights. Of course he had dogs
and a sheepskin canteen.
He saw Jesus, hanging
between the antlers of a deer. He had merely
meant to go walking,
maybe shoot himself some dinner.
The forest was prickly, thicker than he remembered.
The dogs couldn't be their usual breakneck selves.
He thought of whistling to them, of turning back.

He saw no landmarks,
could not locate that particularly wide pine
or the peak that rose up so sharply, like a horse's neck.
Just picture that — Eustace looking around.
And then, suddenly, straight ahead of him:
the motionless buck,
staring into his face with unstartled brown eyes,
supporting this miniature Christ
who was still dying.

Eustace fell to his knees, hugging himself
tightly into a ball.
The dogs nuzzled him frantically.
He jerked himself up, wanting to see again —
Eustace is famous for this, his story
was well received once he made his way home.

That's what I told him. But I think
he was bored — couldn't see it,
Eustace plunging downhill, elated, terrified
as the path cleared itself, brambles
and vines like snakes drawing back, and then, too,
the buck following, the blur of his hooves winging over the ground.

Sally Ball
Annus Mirabilis
Barrow Street Press Poetry Prize
Selected by Ellen Bryant Voigt
Barrow Street Press

Copyright © 2005 by Sally Ball.
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry Daily with permission.

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