Animals Invented By Longing

It began with a neighbor asking
if I could identify a print he found
pressed into the soft mud around
his trash cans. Four-toed, broad as the palm

of my hand, this was not the track of any
city-nervous deer or weasel cousin, no heart
that would be satisfied by
picking our kitchen refuse. Twenty feet away,

another print, the same animal, but smaller.
In the weedy scruff by my back fence,
we found a final print, and beyond that
the cloven heart of a deer's hoof, evidence maybe,

of an impulse toward co-existence. Last night,
I flipped on the flood light in time
to find the red flicker of
a fox vanishing inside the dark. A few nights later,

I faced the startled yowl of a possum. From within
the crumbled borders of their world,
animals bear their identities and appetites
into ours. And neither of us finds room to shift

our desires or expectations for the other. So they flee
and ignore me until the night when I go
among my back yard's sparse trees
to lie down and let them see what has fallen.

Al Maginnes is the author of seven full length collections of poetry, most recently The Next Place (Iris Press, 2017). His poems appear widely and he is music editor of Connotation Press. He lives with his family in Raleigh, North Carolina. (

Boxcar Poetry Review - ISSN 1931-1761