John Whitney Steele

Deer Tracks

I’ve beaten my own path
through meadows that in spring

revealed mere hints of trails
left by wintering deer.

Trained by daily walks
that tramp down traceless deer-paths

my slipshod mind
starts to fall in line.

But I prefer to wander
along untrammeled forks

that meander into nothing—
as if the deer had disappeared

mid-step, or a wind-borne thought
had faded into the fog of no one there…

until a trickle in the stream-bed
from last night’s rain, the crunch

of a pine cone underfoot,
percolates through my brain,

and like a newborn waking
from a dreamless sleep,

I look around, wide-eyed.
Enthralled by the flight of a hawk,

I recall those child-long days
spent gazing through God’s eye.

Back then, when I scaled cliffs,
looked down, knowing I could fall,

I was sure that something in me
would not, could not die—

The hawk’s no longer visible.
What do hawks make of this world?

Eyebrow to eyebrow with Death,
do they too, smell his breath?

The Buddha Said

The world’s on fire.

Fueled by fear,
us versus them,

Frantic cycles
of grasping, hatred,

fight, flight, freeze.

The Buddha said,
The world’s on fire.

How much more so


And yet

we still deny it.

What more does it take?

The threat
of nuclear war,

the paralyzed panic
of icecap meltdown,

the ravages of Covid,
people of color squelched,

lynchings, protests,
tear gas, riots.

The world’s on fire


And yet

we still deny it.

There’s no time
for blame and shame.

Put aside
your monkey-mind.

Dowse the flames
that rage within you.

The world’s on fire.
Both your hands are free.

John Whitney Steele, assistant editor of Think: A Journal of Poetry, Fiction and Essays, graduated from the MFA Poetry Program at Western Colorado University. His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Amethyst Review, Autumn Sky, Boulder Weekly, Buddhist Poetry Review, Blue Unicorn, Colorado Sun, Copperfield Review, Eastern Forms, Heron Clan Anthology, IthacaLit, The Lyric, New Verse News, The Orchards, Peacock, Road Not Taken, Society of Classical Poets, Urthona Journal of Buddhism, and Verse-Virtual.


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