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by Ellen Bass

Did he hear splashing
as he tossed his keys
on the counter, or was the deer

composed by then, on all fours, suds
swirling around its delicate
ankles like a person standing

in shallow surf? Or did it lower
itself like a sphinx, the line
of wet fur dark around its neck

trimmed with an Elizabethan
collar of foam? Perhaps,
when it felt the water

warm as sunshine, smelled the rose
scented froth, it leaned back,
resting the separate knobs

of its vertebrae on the plump
plastic cushion, relaxing
like a woman after a long

shift at work.
If so, did the man know
what to do? Did he pour two

gin and tonics, carry them
on the silver tray his mother
left him, along with a stack

of ecru towels, then sit
on the lid of the toilet
and ask about her day?

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