Poem in Which I Attempt to Exorcise Deer from My Poems


All my life I’ve known deer
unbodied—heads mounted
on our basement wall, eyes
replaced with glass, hair sharp
enough to cut the fingers I pressed
into their cheeks again and again
in spite of what my mother
told me. Or I’ve known them
opened and hanging from the ceiling
of Molly’s garage when her father
didn’t close the door, their insides
slipping onto concrete. My cousins
and I found a deer’s bones
and thought they were something
wilder—a monster who might
reassemble and pluck us
from our beds—so we made
a shrine of its skull,
circled it in dandelions and offerings
of brightly colored candy eggs,
chocolate kisses, licorice.
When my grandfather went purple
and expired in a nursing home,
I thought I saw a doe outside
his window, waiting for the corn and carrots
and peppers he left in the field
behind the old house after dinner
Sunday evenings, the rest of us watching
from the screen door as warm bodies
came from the birches to take
what we couldn’t finish. 

Michelle S. Reed is the author of I Don't Need to Make a Pretty Thing (Black Lawrence Press). Her work has been featured or is forthcoming in Waxwing, Salt Hill, Flyway, The Account, and Third Coast, among others. Find her online at mreedwrites.com.