Tuesday Poem

Time Capsule: The Fallow Deer

Reader, they have slaughtered the white deer of my childhood.
My father enchanted them into unicorns as they drifted in with the fog

that filled our valleys. They were imports, ornamental. Shipped in
by some rich eccentric for his pleasure. Reader, it’s true: they outgrew

their pen, outlived their keeper. Up close they were not white, really,
more day-old snow, their fur matted with ticks and burrs. Their horns not spiral,

but branched. Reader, they were nothing like unicorns, but I loved
to spot them from my father’s truck as we drove the tangled road

to the coast. How they came out like stars in the scrub oak.
My father kept a gun in the back seat. He kept a season for the killing,

the other three for wonder. I woke once to headlights
slashed across my bedroom window, a buck strung up

by his hind legs in the pear tree, belly split sternum to pelvis,
my father cutting him down into pieces we could swallow.

Those evenings though, my father never fired, only whistled
to startle them up from their grazing, so I could call them

by their horns: button buck, spike, doe. They called them invasive
and shot them from helicopters. Who were they, Reader, to draw

the line of belonging? The white deer were my fireflies,
my everyday magic. But who am I? In the crackle of starlight,

above dry leaves soaked silent, the dead buck shone,
nothing like a unicorn. Up close it is harder to stand what we do

with this awe, with these hands.

by Erin Rodoni
Muzzle Magazine