Jacques Rancourt

No Miracle, No Act of God

What should not stay unsaid will grow wild

as chicory flowers, as the mushrooms

on the damp side of a tree. In that time after sunrise

but before the light hits the shore, that time animals know,

my father took me in his canoe onto Greenwood Pond.

Passing by Flint’s cabin and the A-frames,


we saw a doe’s body lying in the shallows

where the reeds have grown high. A gunshot wound

in her left side browned the water, which was strange,

my father said, because it wasn’t hunting season.

Strange because it was five in the morning

and the wound still bled. That night I dreamt


about a forest fire and all the animals of the earth

either running toward it or from it

because there were no other ways to go.

Once, I rode my bike down a hill into

the side of a shed because I felt for the first time

that invincible charge coursing through me


or because I didn’t, because I never have,

not even at ten, and when the shed grew closer,

I held out my hand to protect myself, or to say No,

to say This will not happen, what no miracle, no act of God

could stop. It was physics: motion and speed

and impact. My palm hit the shed


then my palm hit my forehead, my elbow still locked,

the bone snapped back. In the moments before

my voice formed a cry, I lay on the ground and laughed

because I was alive. No one should be this glad

to be broken. The doe in the lake, water filling her nostrils,

was she glad? Or the hunter who watched the shapes


the moon made through the trees—was he glad

when the doe bounded up twice, then fell,

flopped in the water, the splash not as loud as the gun

but as deafening? Was he glad before that,

in the woods past dark, when she stepped into light?

In that same town, a woman was killed Thanksgiving morning


while hanging laundry out to dry. It was early,

the cold frosting the grass, and because it was cold

she wore white gloves, which looked to a different hunter

through the forest of dead birches to be the white

of a deer’s tail. Two hunters in the same town,

and if they were glad, then why, both times,


did they leave the doe? It’s easy to believe in God

when you live below mountains, covered by the shadow

of something larger. My father and I hiked up a mountain,

and on the way up we didn’t speak, and on its crown

we said even less. No revelation: only the clouds,

and the trees, and the clouds overlapping the trees,


but there was something I wanted to tell him,

not knowing what it was. Lately I’ve been having

the same dream, the one where the moon

lights up all the white in the world and the doe

with the gunshot wound in her side runs toward the lake

to swim to that island off shore. But she does not make it,


takes two giant leaps in the shallows and reeds, and falls,

and for hours she watches the moon slip through the sky

and behind the mountain. And when the moon is hidden,

all goes dark. And the spots on the doe’s back blow out

like candles. And the hunter is gone, scared by what

he’s done. And the doe is alone except for the otter


that slips in at the shore, except for the loon that wails

its grief. In this dream, I know the doe is my father,

which doesn’t make sense, but I know it’s true,

so I bend down in the water beside the doe and stroke

her head. Dear dying doe, dear wet father—stay

a little longer. There is something I needed to tell you. 



“No Miracle, No Act of God” is from Novena (Pleiades Press, 2017).