Final Poem for the Deer

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Deer asleep on the side of the road. No, deer
dead there as always, preserved in the Book
of Symbols. Deer with its flies and uncanny
arrows in its sides like compass needles, or
fleshless wings. Deer whose hooves puncture names
in the snow. Deer who knows your name.
Deer a white-tailed gnostic in the woods.
Deer you get lost in. Deer with a ribbon
of brass bells around its neck and an iron
sword in its antlers’ altar. Deer emperor
surveying a funeral from afar, hoofing open
cracks in the vagaries of the fool
who wanted a dear. Deer in the mind taking
place of the dear, always its assignment. Here,
the casket carrying the father is a deer,
four cloven hooves upon the red carpet, a blown-up
photograph of the father’s past face a road
sign saying “The future is still.”
Boy who refuses to view his body’s father.
Afraid of the face he will not recognize
for addiction has its way with flesh. Deer
casket marching out the church to where
the earth is gentler to flesh, strips it patiently.
Deer carrying the dead in its spine cradle.
The scent of pears beckons from the basinet
of bone. The dead carrying the dead. The arrows
in the deer tremble toward their cardinal affairs:
the skin someone forgot the feel of, the mama
who never said goodbye, the daddy whose belly
rolled on its side like a truck-crushed deer.
There is no daddy here. The father sits up
in his casket, startled, his funeral full
of his sons, no, his one son repeating
like a paper cutout. A forest of sons   
in which the deer tilts its decorous head
into the father’s grave and sips.