by George Oppen
In the small beauty of the forest
The wild deer bedding down —
That they are there!
Effortless, the soft lips
Nuzzle and the alien small teeth
Tear at the grass
The roots of it
Dangle from their mouths
Scattering earth in the strange woods.
They who are there.
Nibbled thru the fields, the leaves that shade them
Hang in the distances
The small nouns
In this in which the wild deer
Startle, and stare out.
by Lynn Hardaker
ochred hands onto the walls of this cave. my skin. my shelter.
to sing the running of the animals,
the wind of the chase, the beating of hearts and hooves
across the plains, of stone and dust.
each night i dream the chase
across my eyes’ black-lidded sky
my body slick with sweat and smeared with ash
as i run,
i hear the beating of the drum i’ve made -
taught and resonant - from my own skin,
feel the weight of the weapon i’ve made
from my own bone.
i leave the fire-painted walls
of this illusion
and i run
under the cool, many-eyed gaze of the night
i run until i feel my heart will beat its last beat and tear through my skin
my fear as dry as the dirt in my mouth.
i lower my antlers to the pool
and drink the stars.
The Faces of Deer
by Mary Oliver
When for too long I don't go deep enough
into the woods to see them, they begin to
enter my dreams. Yes, there they are, in the
pinewoods of my inner life. I want to live a life
full of modesty and praise. Each hoof of each
animal makes the sign of a heart as it touches
then lifts away from the ground. Unless you
believe that heaven is very near, how will you
find it? Their eyes are pools in which one
would be content, on any summer afternoon,
to swim away through the door of the world.
Then, love and its blessing. Then: heaven.
Deer tapestries above: The Woodland tapestry designed by John Henry Dearle for Morris & Co. (English, late 19th century); The Quest for the Holy Grail tapestry designed by William Morris for Morris & Co. (English, late 19th century); a detail from one of the four Devonshire Hunting Tapesteries (medieval French); one of the seven tapestries in the Hunt of the Unicorn series (medieval Dutch); and Tilly sits with the winged deer in the tapestry hanging over the studio sofa. (The design is medieval French.)
Publication credits: "Psalm" by George Oppen was published in New Collected Poems by George Oppen, 1965; "skin" by Lynn Hardaker was published in Mythic Delirium # 28, Winter/Spring 2013 issue; "The Faces of Deer" by Mary Oliver was published in New & Selected Poems, Vol. 2 by Mary Oliver, 2005.