Winter Poetry Challenge: Day 3
Winter Poetry Challenge: Day 5

Winter Poetry Challenge: Day 4

Winged Dear Tapestry

The theme for Day 4 of the Poetry Challenge is: Deer in Fairy Tales, Folkore, and Myth.

"As long as people have lived or hunted alongside the deer's habitats," writes Ari Berk (in Where the White Stag Runs), "there have been stories: some of kindly creatures who become the wives of mortals; or of lost children changed into deer for a time, reminding their kin to honor the relationship with the Deer People, their close neighbors. And there are darker tales, recalling strange journeys into the Otherworld, abductions, and dangerous transformations that don't end well at all. But all stories about the deer share some common ground by showing us that the line between our world and theirs is very thin indeed."

For inspiration, have a look at the week's worth of deer art, poetry, prose, and links I posted 0n Myth & Moor in July. There are so many good deer-related fairy tales and myths that the hard part will be deciding which to choose.

Out of Narnia by Su Blackwell

Caretaker 2 by Jeanie Tomanek

Deer Woman by Susan Seddon Boulet

The rules of the Challenge are listed in Tuesday's post; if you're new to this, please read them before you join in. Everyone is welcome to participate by contributing poems, giving feedback to the poets, and joining in the conversation. Many thanks to all who have done so already...your generosity is overwhelming, everyone.

Don't forget that new poems will continue to appear under all of the posts until the Challenge closes at midnight on Saturday, so be sure to go back to the Bear, Snow White, and Snow Queen threads to read the latest offerings there too. And good luck in the woods on the trail of the deer. Enchantment abounds there. Be careful.

Brother and Sister by Carl Offterdinger

We start, as usual, with a poem from the Journal of Mythic Arts archives, and today it's one of mine. "Brother and Sister" is based on the Grimms' fairy tale of that name, which has haunted me ever since I was young. It's followed by a poem in response by Barth Anderson, written from the deer-brother's point of view. Barth is the author of The Patron Saint of Plagues and The Magician and the Fool, and I recommend them both with great pleasure.


Caretaker by Jeanie Tomanek

Brother and Sister
by Terri Windling

do you remember, brother
those days in the wood
when you ran with the deer —
falling bloody on my doorstep at dusk
stepping from the skin
grateful to be a man?
and do you know, brother
just how I longed
to wrap myself in the golden hide
smelling of musk
blackberries and rain?
The Muse by T Windlingtell me that tale
give me that choice
and I'll choose speed and horn and hoof —
give me that choice
all you cruel, clever fairies
and I'll choose the wood
not the prince.

 

Sister and Brother
by Barth Anderson

you long to run in musky rain and princely skins
but, sister, I have sped that hidebound marathon
wearing golden hides that warped my hands
     to hooves
and broke my scalp with a crown of horns —
I've run through thorns and thirsty fens
through wolves that bite and cats that catch —
those blood-dried hides of hoary kings
Brother & Sister film posterscoured raw my skin and
deadened my heart with hammering —
when I reached your hearth I shucked that hide
and faerie hands unveiled my sight:
ever beneath that scouring skin
proud, callow princes were scraped away
revealing numb and bloody men below.
but no more hides and no more hurts
run, sister, if you must but no more marathons
      for me
for I choose this hearth, not the princely hide,
and I will let my skin knit smooth.

 

                               Leaping deer

 

 

Filmmaker Lisa Stock also responded to the poem, with a beautiful short film full of deer, snow, and magic. If you ever have a chance to see it, or any of her InByTheEye productions, don't miss it.

The White Deer by Virginia Francis Sterett

Young Kenyan Woman Holding a Pet Deer

The art above is: A medieval French "Winged Deer" tapestry design, "Out of Narnia" by papercut artist Su Blackwell, "Caretaker 2" by Jeanie Tomanek, "Deer Woman" by Susan Seddon Boulet (1941-1997), "Brother and Sister" by Carl Offterdinger (1829-1889), "Caretaker" by Jeanie Tomanek, "The Muse" by T. Windling, poster for "Brother & Ssister" - a film by Lisa Stock, "The White Deer" by Virginia Frances Sterrett (1900-1931), and an early 20th century photograph of a young Kenyan woman with her pet deer.

Publication information: "Brother and Sister"  first appeared The Armless Maiden anthology, and was reprinted in the Journal of Mythic Arts and The Poets' Grimm. It is copyright c 1995 by T. Windling; all rights reserved by the author. "Sister and Brother" first appeared in the Journal of Mythic Arts. It is copyright c 2003 by Barth Anderson; all rights reserved by the author. All poems posted in the Comments thread are the property of their authors, who likewise reserve all rights.

Comments

I'm hearing that a number of people are having trouble posting comments, getting a "Not a HASH reference" error message when they try to do so.

I've written to Typepad about the problem and I hope they'll sort it out, but if you still have trouble, send me your comment through the Endicott Studio address [theendicottstudio at gmail dot com], tell me where it should go, and I put it up for you. My apologies for the hassle.


This poem of mine was in Myth and Moor a while back:

The Staying of Story, For My Baby Brother

I remember the girl trying hard
to save her little brother
from the long drink of magic;
remember the stream frothy, inviting,
that turns him into a deer.
Remember how we walked along
the Central park paths
hand-in-hand, a January day,
a skim of ice on the reservoir,
its face crackling into pictures
of frost giants, star patterns,
dancing whorls. Remember
holding him back from the bent fence,
that man’s invitation, remember
scolding, screaming, begging.
Remember how the tale frightened,
enlightened, stayed with me
long past its usefulness,
my brother safe, grown, a father,
grandfather, now almost as old
as I, dreaming at night:
water, ice, magic, and the tale.

©2012 Jane Yolen all rights reserved

- Custom -

We do not say we saw a deer. We saw
The starlight slanting through rain-silvered leaves
The mist lift off the lake, owls through the trees
Glide white and silent. This, and nothing more.

We do not say we saw a figure pale
Among the rushes, long-limbed, loitering.
We saw the rushes only, rustling,
The thin frost freezing to a glassy veil.

We do not speak of tracks that, seen too near,
Appear to change from hooves to naked feet.
We do not speak of strangers whom we meet -
Such questions only ever cost too dear.

We keep an older law:
These two have always been
Separate: What you have seen
And what you say you saw.

An update from the nice folks at Typepad Support:

"After an update to Typepad was released yesterday, we did see the 'hash tag' error when commenting which is likely when your readers were trying to comment. We worked as quickly as possible to resolve the issue, and you should not receive any further problems."

Absolutely beautiful, Jane and Kathleen.

But no others? The deer must be leading our poets on a merry chase....

Wow, I love this post so much! The images, those poems, that short film, all just so inspiring and well done. I love deer, too (growing up in upstate Ny, go figure). This poem is a three-part one published in Obsidian a few years ago. I was only going to post the first part, but they really do go together, so I hope that is okay as it is a bit long..

Avalloch and The Tree Fairy: a triptych


Part One (The Fairy Ailinn)

I romp towards Broceliande
a slippery undine
shrieking silent paeans of wood lust
my face smeared with pitch
thighs shining with vetiver, tacky with blood

Where are you?

Cloaked in mist, I huddle beneath pine boughs
breakfasting on fallen acorns.
I wait, and sing.

I have lost you to the dawn
running backwards to daylight
to your city
to timepieces and rough weather
to loved ones and gold coin and sour beer.

How could you have become lost among trees?
You, the huntsman who's plundered every acre of Bretagne?
How came you to the faery realm?
How, if not trapped by magic?

You ran me through
Herne to my Sadhbh
antlers singed in the spitting fire
hot meat juices dripping from your beard
to stain my breast the colour of venison.

You semen swirls in my belly.
My teeth are imprinted on your spine.

I wait.
You won't be leaving.

I could have been a mermaid
could have dragged you over rocks
knotted your fingers in my silver hair
offered you to any or all of my sisters
their combs in hand, cold hips floating.
I could have filled your lungs with salt and pearls
stopped your legs
kept you with me.

But I am alone in this.
I love you. I want you here.

An ageless and nubile forest nymph
I tempt you with peaty scotch and promises
luring you with apples and high sweet music
into the green and breathing temple of myself.

LATER:
In Celidon Wood
nine dryads play at calixte twigs, the old game
dividing the contents of a buckskin pouch
squealing with delight as each receives a bauble in turn:
chunks of flint, silver coins, golden needles,
stubs of tallow candles, black feathers,
oat biscuits, a flask half-filled with honey mead,
a scarlet silk ribbon,
a tine of stag horn carved with Ogham,
a knife blade sticky with sap.


Part Two (The Huntsman Avalloch)

Bitch.
No you never twisted my arm.
I wanted to stay with you.
Twenty years I gave, petrified
in the screaming orchard, choked with ivy and mushrooms.
Twenty years recalling the taste of your mouth,
while you seduced a dozen lovers
and I watched.

The fisherman, called to your side from his bleak rock village,
The selkie trapper, his silver eyelashes frozen to your lips,
The woodsman, his hatchets rusted in your juices,
Even the idiot farmer, with his gifts of barley and turnips.
I saw it all, enslaved as I was among apple trees
their clumsy caresses bludgeoning my stopped eyes,
even as they bruised your greenfairy skin.

But you are not as fragile as you look.

For they, too, have been imprisoned in the oaks,
in the hazels, the hawthorns,
put away, endless forest denizens rooted in the soil of Broceliande,
soil trod by Merlin, another hapless fool,
frozen in transfigured time by a conniving fey doxy
was that your work, too?

LATER (Ailinn Speaks):
What do you mean, you're sorry?
Oh my love, I had such hopes for you, for us.
But in the end, you disappointed--
too angry, too possessive, too too too monogamous.
It's better this way, don't you see?

Patience, Avalloch: our flesh may yet be one.
Think not on the others,
they will wither in six seasons' time.
You are the one I loved enough to stay the flow of your blood.
Your body is yet warm as milk, sturdy as horn.
For now, remain in the grove,
be my shelter and my food,
and remember those nights we loved,
your antlered crown tangled in my hair,
while a thousand colours woke and danced about us
and we named them all forest green.


Part Three (Merlin Speaks)


It is all one.
Frozen I have been, but powerless, no.
Magic has flowered in me, a thorned, odorous canopy
of roses, balm, and rubine foxgloves.
I could crush you like beetles, like dried petals,
and scatter you from the cliffs of Orkney.
I could send you to the heinous bogs of Lindow,
there to drown forever in her peaty stench,
embracing my kinsman there, a late harvest offering,
the stuck-up golden boy, an ungrateful druid
if ever there was one.

Perhaps his withered lips might rouse in you some occult passion,
stir your breast to sugared musings, or move you to pretty tears,
such as I could never wrest from you.
For I do long to see you wed, my dear,
as, in my dotage, I drive roots deep and deep
into river-wet rock beds.
I am become stone, my robes a melted, igneous drapery,
my eyes mere chunks of amber.
I have been in the unhewn dolmen,
and I have been in stag horns, and sea salt,
and my hard, gnarled roots have plumbed soils
richer and moister far than yours, my darling.

Stuck? Petrified? Mudlogged?
I am in my element, you might say.
A tree in the earth, a stick in a hole,
my arms forever raised,
my head forever bent, in benediction.
I forgive you.
Your time is almost done, you know.
And when at last red fire rents the air
and all save the Eternal Ones must die,
your blood and sinew and snot and bones
will all be dust, greying in the black wind.

But I will rise from this Last Burning,
a golden and phantasmagoric birdling,
something between a merlin and an ibis,
unfettered, unfrozen, undead
And I will remember you.

Wait for me.

LATER: (The Goddess Speaks)
Alas, my mountains, laid waste,
are sloppy with glistering guano.
My waters, poisoned, lie thick, unmoving, stinking.
The forests, the grasses, all picked clean of berries and milk.
Tittering, chirping, screeching, the very air is an insult to me.

Who would have thought, in my autumn years,
I'd have been ousted, raped, undone,
not by men, but by a myth?

Deer Inside

At night, I roam the silent forest
human on the outside, deer within
lying down in a frostbitten meadow
antlered darkness seeps into my veins

easily spooked, I rise, shift, change
deer on the outside, human within
splayed hooves press mud
delicate patterns, half-moons, under my feet

I run the wild land, breathless
searching for my kin, knowing
they can't be there, no-one like me
two souls in one breast, deer woman

I return to the forest, full moon lights
my pathway into tangled underbrush
I lie down in a frostbitten meadow
surrender to the life force within
deer becoming woman again

Back in the city passing a window
seeing from the corner of an eye
my human face looking back at me
shaded by antlers - deer woman.

HIND ON A WINTER'S MORNING.

Breath made flesh
condensed on mortality's air.
Then the God
inhales again
and she's gone,
in that pause
between question

And reply.

Here's two Deer poems , one quite recent, one very old.

The first is based on the Hungarian femme fatale, Szépasszony, who shapeshifts from animal to woman enticing men with her lovely, deadly charms. This was published in "Jabberwocky" back in the Autumn of 2011

Szépasszony

On nights when dampness
tangles her stars
in a net of mist, you have
called me this—

long-haired lady
who comes to your arms
bare and rubbing her hoof
against your shin.

Before you turned down the sheets,
I had been running as a doe
so pale and swift,
I matched storm water rushing
over woodland stones.

You know how the old
storytellers of Magyar
call me mercurial, snatching
the moment’s glitter and making
a man think its gold will linger
beyond night into countless days.

They warn I am fickle
and spin love from the spider’s silk.
But I say my fingers
have never touched her spindled tongue
nor has my own shimmered with lies.

Szépasszony,
these soft syllables may sprout
suspicion, but I blossom fair.
My hands, Dear Love,
stay in your hands
and abandon time to a low
moon resting
on the shoulder blade of change.


http://www.jabberwocky-magazine.com/2011/10/szepasszony/

And the second poem was inspired by reading an article in The Witch's Almanac about Lady Sybil of Bernshaw tower who enjoyed practicing sorcery. She was considered clever, witty and extremely beautiful. Her most ardent passion was to run wild through the deep ravine of Cliviger Gorge in the form of a milk-white doe. This poem is really old and was eventually published in an anthology called "Tipping The Sacred Cow" which explored fairytale themes and motifs from different and lyrical perspectives.

The Lady Of Bernshaw Tower

Run wild through the ravine
lovely milk-white doe,
dark-green with ivy
red-sweet with raspberry
and no one will know
of your golden hair
long as the marshland grass
clean as the brook,
and soft as candles
rippling light at evening mass.

Run wild through the ravine
lovely milk-white doe,
The moon grinds a new dream
against a wheel of wind
and no one will know
of your beautiful hand
wearing the signet ring;
a hand that wields magic
and coins of mushroom
scatter about in the spring.

Run wild through the ravine,
lovely milk-white doe;
the maid will lay out your gown
and shoes in the tower
so no one will know
of your journey downward
through the witch’s path,
all vines and rock-chasm’d hill.
Fear not the morning bells,
nor your husbands wrath,
the tongues of stone,
water and timber
remain ancient and still.

Hi Johanna

I love the voice in this poem, the unusual character delving into her identity and unique position in life. The transformation or shape-shifting sequences are handled deftly and make the poem flow evenly in context with theme and change. The ending strophe is haunting. When we look into the window or mirror at a glance, we catch the unexpected or shadowing aspect of ourselves. This is really lovely and I enjoyed it!

Best
Wendy

Hi Stuart

In its brevity, this poem enchants. I love the idea of her vanishing "in that pause between question and reply". Also a perfect title.

enjoyed
Wendy

Hi Kathleen

Indeed, beautiful, mysterious and haunting. I also think the ending is so superb, it says a lot about our sense of perspective and our human tendencies. Fine work!

Much enjoyed
wendy

I'm going to post this before i read all that's gone before, just to avoid second guessing myself. I've been concentrating on prose the last few years, so this is the first poem in a while. It just happens that last week I got out my old, broken, warped from being left in the rain old copy of Grimm's Fairy tales and just started reading it through. I've also been re-reading Sleeping Beauty and its variations and predecessors. And this morning, this happened.

Blood tells

A hundred years our mother walked
still young, blood moving, awake
a little mad, perhaps in those dull halls, enchanted
craving company. So yes, she welcomed in
a wandering prince, a stranger and well
yes, he must have been handsome
and he must have stayed a day or two,
read with her, made music, sang—
made love. And well, who wouldn’t?
Who knew?

Then we came creeping,
crawling, suckling, embarrassing
Banished to the wood.
My brother, as they often do, got
the long eyelashes, huge black eyes,
sharp hooves. I got all this hair,
an apron and silence.

The Sun’s boy, he could change his coat,
run free on four legs
smell the wind, and hang his coat
his hide as soft as satin, on a peg.
Sleep in the bed I made, in the house
I kept still as the Moon.

So yes, I welcomed a wandering stranger,
perhaps he was handsome, how would I know?
For a day, for a night, there was music
and death. Now my pretty daughter
has found a house in the forest.
The walls are sweet, she says,
as gingerbread. How does she know?

Runaway princess who's never been kissed
Changes to white deer, in the mist.
Hunters follow her not knowing she
Is what she is, her mystery.

A prince who hoped to rescue
Any princess, but found few.
As he idles, she sidles near.
"A princess? Are you here?

She, startled bounds away
In ballet graceful plie'
The prince still forlorn.
Was that, a unicorn?

She leads him through green trees,
Over streams, his crying, "Please,
Please let me find you. Beautiful one;
I never saw your likes under the sun."

"Nor moon. Please, I mean no harm."
That stopped her, in her charm
For his voice was steady, in her mind
She might speak to one so kind.

She stood, shimmering, shy
He opened his mouth. "My, my.
Thought you magical, now I fear
You are just an ordinary deer

Before she fled, in voice like a bell.
"I am a white deer princess, so tell
This story to princes far and wide,
How you lost a white deer bride."

Hi Wendy,

thank you!!! The whole poem was created 1 sec before I typed it into this form here below. It just came out as a whole (sometimes, if my muse is kind, this will happen). Mirrors and what they hide or show reluctantly is one of my themes at the moment - and of course windows can be mirrors, too. The doorway to a different realm... also giving you a glimpse of the unexpected.

All the best,
Johanna

I believe I posted this on Myth and Moor before, written because deer tracks are heart-shaped:

Heart Tracks

A deer walked by here,
flag of tail waving,
a banner of farewell,
and the little hearts left behind.

A deer walked by here
scuffing the dirt with passing,
cut grass on the verges,
and the hearts left as a sign.

A deer walked by here
a single print of passage,
one single heart broken,
and it is mine.

©2013 Jane Yolen all rights reserved

This is another new one, and there's an old one underneath that featured in Brian Froud's faerie "Poem of the Year" contests. Hope you'll enjoy them!


A Fleeting glimpse

I ran with the deer
The day you first saw me
You tried to race us with your horse
But we were faster, light-footed waifs
Roaming the wild hills

I ran with the deer
The second day
You tried to track us with your hounds
But we were wiser, hidden-path finding hinds
Vanishing in the deep forest

I ran with the deer
The third day
You beat us with modern technology
Waiting for us with your four-wheel drive
By the lake at the forest edge

You shot one of my sisters
And I watched, motionless
As her soul took flight
To become woman once more
Unlike me, for
I will always run with the deer.

Here is the older one:


The Noon Stag

It is time, she says, don’t be late, and
she draws the moon upon my brow,
hurry up, she ushers
and opens her back door.
Noon Sun, gleaming white,
blurring heat, birds are silent.
Sweat runs in streams,
hair sticks to skin,
nostrils flare, I know,
he is here.
Carefully I set my feet,
lust ignites from heat,
eyes scanning the forest border.
There – antlers among bushes.
Breath held, body shakes,
remembering wells up, deeply, powerfully.
Land and king are one,
Goddess is Earth is land is me.
Sacred union, needed
to change people’s fate.
Horned One, I’m waiting. Come.
Hoof beats ground.
Meeting in the shade,
old oaks quivering like poplars.
Mouth finds mouth, kiss seals
ancient pact, time stands still.
Goddess and God meet,
bed of herbs rustles.
Sun and Earth united,
perfect balance obtained,
waves of lust spreading,
high tide of noon heat.
Antlers beat bushes,
Earth is blessed.
Spark of new life, shining
within dark womb,
sacred union, complete –
energy pulses through ley-lines,
Tor Hill glows with power,
harvest is safe.
Last embrace, deep emotions,
definite recognition.
Stag flees to the shadows,
I walk my way home
as in a dream.
Broom bows in reverence.
She awaits me
smiling, with sacred water,
blesses my head, breasts, yoni,
draws the moon upon my brow,
waves at me impatiently
to follow her.
Back on the island,
apple blossoms fall,
round are moon and belly,
blessed life, Grainné,
Daughter of the Sun, will be.
It is done.

ANOTHER WHITE DOE

Each inch of her a dancer. Ear to tail
language of moving gesture strut and stance.
She runs and darts through space swift as the lance
or arrow she avoids. One day she'll fail

but not today. A single hunter runs
through briars after her. She smells his sweat
and keeps on running. Sometime, but not yet,
this won't be fairy story. He'll have guns.

Or hounds or falcons. When he strikes her down
She won't get up a princess. She will bleed
and cough her life as blood. A hero's deed.
He will parade her skin and guts through town.

No magic princess, twenty pounds of meat.
She pirouettes, flicks ears, high steps her feet.

ANOTHER WHITE DOE

Each inch of her a dancer. Ear to tail
language of moving gesture strut and stance.
She runs and darts through space swift as the lance
or arrow she avoids. One day she'll fail

but not today. A single hunter runs
through briars after her. She smells his sweat
and keeps on running. Sometime, but not yet,
this won't be fairy story. He'll have guns.

Or hounds or falcons. When he strikes her down
She won't get up a princess. She will bleed
and cough her life as blood. A hero's deed.
He will parade her skin and guts through town.

No magic princess, twenty pounds of meat.
She pirouettes, flicks ears, high steps her feet.

I'm afraid that I live much too close to deer, which are frightfully overpopulated here, and so they have lost much of their mystic quality through glum familiarity. But maybe there's a silly little bit of a poem in that, too.


Garden-raider,
I see you:
your brittleglass legs
soul-dark eyes
your ears alive with vermin.

I’ve used as many tricks as any fox
to keep you out
fences, dogs, and bags of hair
soap hung foolishly on strings—
to keep the shoots ungnawed
the bark unstripped.

I, who would follow the white stag anywhere
shove the cat off my lap
and run out the door,
not even bother to put on shoes
if I saw his shadow passing by.

But for you
little mouse brown doe
no myths here
no hero’s journey
just me stamping my feet and yelling
while you flick your ears and wonder
if this time I really mean it.

In the end
All my cleverness is useless
Shattered on the mute stones of your indifference.
You outlasted all my tricks
You—
And a dozen more like you
And a dozen more like you
And a dozen more after that.

Very nice, I love the short lines...

these were the most obvious mythical deer i could think of!!

Dancer:

winter

the circle of the heavens
has turned once more

sharp hooves dig through snow
for lichen and sweet blaeberries
breath turns to fog on the whetted air

we are gathered and selected
roped and ordered
two by two
mothers daughters sisters

heavy gear on my back
newly mended
a sister rolls her eyes
throws up her head
tries to hook with a tine

he ducks the gesture
laughing like a bell
harnesses the team
brings round the bucket
we drink deep
earthy taste of mushroom

red and white
as blood and bone
the draught shivers through me
muscle twitches under hide
silver ringing softly

creaking of leather and wood
the ancient sleigh takes the weight
promises and expectations
hopes and disappointments

whipcrack
reins slap
hooves dig into ice crust

stars spin
bear follows dragon follows queen

reindeer fly

Lovely, my favorite line the last one, I want to paint it and hang it on my desk, "water, ice, magic, and the tale".

Such vivid, luscious imagery. Delightful to read.

Wendy, these are both divine, but "The Lady of Bernshaw Tower" took my breath away. I just adore it, and the fact that it was inspired by the Witch's Almanac, I could feel the powerful magic. Thank you for sharing both.

Just lovely, Maggie, I really like the bard-like tone of voice, I could imagine this being told in a fairy village, surrounded by enchanted listeners. Beautiful.

gorgeous Phyllis, the rhythm is soft and lovely as these images, I read it aloud, it was just magical to hear, as well.

Sad and very sweet.

Visceral, Roz, I nearly grimaced at "twenty pounds of meat". Yes, the hunter can very much whittle down the magic of the forest, but I suppose we can all.

this is so charming and humorous, Ursula, reminds me of the population of squirrels that raid my in-laws backyard.

Each line is so beautiful, Kath, as to be almost a poem on its own. Lovely.

Thank you so much, Raquel! How very kind of you to say so, and what a lovely comparison.

Thanks Raquel!

Today the words almost didn't come. I have deer-women inside that want to get out, but their stories are to long to tell in a single day. Household stresses block balladry.
An unfamiliar vese-form, the Japanese tanka, and the Forest Lord, were what today's challenge required.


Hunt-King and Hunted
Hoof-beat drumming to heart-beat
Wild wind in each breath
Winter stars on speckled pelt
White moon held between His tines

The Harpers of the Venerable Tree of Caín Bile

We studied
the way words can flow like streams,
thunder through the breast,
or fall like King Conchobar's largesse
to the upturned
heart of the listener.

We played our harpstrings
until our fingers
blistered, bled, and healed again,
bringing forth the sound
of the sighing boughs,
the cry of the hind,
the relentless wave.

And when Medb's warriors
chased us like quarry,
spurning our gift of song?
We shed our skins
for roan fur and sharp, cloven hooves.
Antlers sprang from our heads
like wisdom's fire.

No arrow touched us.
No javelin pierced our sides.
When we harpers
vanished among the standing stones.
Our golden harps abandoned
beneath the bloody souls
of Medb's army.

c. 2014 Amanda Lord

Based on a tiny offhand story in the Táin Bó Cúailnge where Medb's army assumes that a group of harpers are spies for Ulster. The harpers turn to deer and vanish between the standing stones when pursued.

Oh that's gorgeous.

Arriving in by a rather frigid wind, eyes so windblown tired that they would rather I pluck them out and just put in my coat pocket, I will post this winter day's spring/sprang wisp, and have a good read of all tomorrow.

t'was coarsely made,
a crown of faded twiggy green
upon a marble heart;
I touched, and thus delusion fled
As stag and hind leapt forth
bound up in vision fleeting

This problem has definitely been solved -- there's been no reported cases of this in the last 24 hours.

There is, however, the on-going issue that comments sometimes get shuttled automatically to the spam box. As I keep saying, please don't worry if your poem doesn't show up immediately - I'm checking the spam box often (during UK daylight hours) and will restore to publication any poems/comments I find there. But please, I beg you!, don't keep re-sending the same comment over and over, which is making the automated spam filter go crazy. Just be patient and your poem/comment *will* appear, I promise.

Okay, that's enough of the blog housecleaning news, now on to the deer!

The first two lines in particular I love - noble and homely.

So lovely, windy and defiant!

The vision of stars speckling the pelt is enchanting.

Thank you so much Peg,
I am glad you enjoyed these. I sincerely appreciate your gracious comment.

Best
Wendy

Hi Raquel

Thank you so much for your kind words and enthusiasm toward my work. The Witch's almanac was a beautiful issue put forth by Dunlap and Gossett back in 1981. It was richly illustrated with woodcuts from William Morris and fantastic articles by diverse writers. Unfortunately, they ceased publication back in the early 1990's. But the legend of Lady Sybil was just fascinating and still holds me spellbound when I think about her. Again, thank you so much for your lovely commentary.

Best
Wendy

This is lovely and dark.

child,
your father tells you stories
of his hunts and of
a deer-child who is like you
if you were a deer
and she not hunted.

child,
you have seen us browse
on your mother's flowers,
heedless of the smell of dogs
and of the old, complacent pony;
you have stared at us through the
frosted window until your
breath made the glass opaque.

child,
you have glimpsed us
alive and dead
along the roads that you learned to drive
in winding, twisting, knotted lines
up and down the mountains
that birthed us all.

child,
why is it now that you
come into the glen of weeds
past the briars and brambles that you
cannot navigate or leap like we?
you pass your empty hand
over the places we slept,
betrayed by the tamped-down grass.

child,
why are your eyes so dark and solemn?
why do you move so soft and silent?
your dark curls are growing pale
and your skin is shadowing.
why do you breathe so,
as though afraid?

oh, child.
we smell your hunter now.

child,
your limbs are thinner than we remember;
you were always so strong, so solid.
where is your warm clothing
that keeps your frail skin unbloodied?
you are no threat to us now,
with your wild eyes and your misting breath,
but we have not forgotten your father
and his barking, biting guns.

child,
the sun has set; the night creeps over
the hills and sends tendrils into the trees.
we are all watching, but none of us think
that you can really hide in our beds.
what is that on your head?
did you steal a dead man's crown for yourself?
is that why he hunts you?

child,
you are changing,
and even our eyes cannot see what you become.
we are spooked.
all of us leave--all but me,
because I remember the stories as well as you do,
and I always fancied myself your doe-twin.
now that I stare, afraid and enthralled,
I wonder if they were stories at all.

child,
fresh velvet tines sprout from your skull
like ferns unfurling in the spring
and all of your skin and hair is replaced
with a golden pelt as plain and warm as mine.
you stand as he enters the glen,
fighting his way past our briars and our brambles
that sink their thorns into his pants and boots.

child,
look how he stares!
you are a prince of the forest;
you are a doe-child;
your limbs are long and
your body is full and
your head bears antlers that
have now shed their velvet.
strips of greyed softness cling to
your head and neck, like a tattered mane.

oh, child,
the hunter weeps for you.
he has dropped his gun.
he has not even seen me,
as I stay motionless in the gloom of twilight,
as I stare at my storied twin.
you reach out a hand:
one to me, and
one to him.

child,
comfort your father.
in all his might, he is
so desperately vulnerable
with his weapon at his boots
and his heart torn out with the truth.
I creep forward,
only enough to touch my breath-fogged nose
to your outstretched palm,
to know your frightened-and-courageous scent,
before I am away.

child,
princely doe,
I listen for the rest of the night,
but not once do I hear the bark of
that gun.

Thank you Kathleen!
That mind's eye vision shot into me! Though I have never had the pleasure (or irritation), of much dealing with deer up close, they have always been to me that which leads onward to an important mystery, pointing the way. They spring out totally unbidden, in unlikely places. It is startling, but always a fascinating auspice!

I think I remember this one. Yes, deer track like a heart stays in my mind.

Thank you so much. I was beginning to think it was turning into a song. It came lightly
and I am so glad you read it out loud.

All Day
All day we followed the deer
All day we followed the marks
Where hooves dented the black earth
Or scuffed the dun rocks
Behind baying hounds
We pushed through thick brush
Into a stream cut vale
And on the following day we found
Where he had stood on a craggy height
And watched us take the false trail
All day we followed the deer
From cool dawn to noon heat toward weary night
Roland limped, Emilia stumbled
Arthur's face and hands were thorn scraped
Bertha bent and fell against an oak
But I would not stop
Into the dark
I followed the deer
Scent and sound
Dreaming

Lightfoot
And Bambi
Were the first names
White Christ
With an antler-framed cross
Rude Actaon betrayed by his own
And the merrie deer ran
Herne!
Camouflaged in dappled shadow
Deep in tangled green
Horned god
Guardian of the crossing
Lord of the ever forest
Guide to the soul's realm
All day and into the night
We follow the deer

Oh what an adventure, like watching it from afar; an amazing swift novel, to read again
and again.

What a dear woman in a deer woman. Wondrous

To do justice to these two poems I had time only to scan, I'll read them to indulge.
Lovely as always.

What a great tale of a poem. Twisted and wise.

Mythic and with it's truth.

Oh my goodness,Phyllis, Thank you so much!

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