after Robinson Jeffers “The Deer Lay Down Their Bones”

Branches crack above me, the forest looming

tall and fractured behind my house. Two deer bolt,

white tails tucked low between legs

too used to running. I take another few steps

before registering a third. Dark, wide-

spread eyes focused on my unfamiliar form.


This one is younger, chalk line spots decorating

a hide yet to be scarred by the underbrush.

Not old enough to be hunted by any human

not innately cruel. Yet cowardice bows my head

and through the adrenaline whine I hear

the green of it bounding away, following the trail

left by warier hooves.


Feeling alien, I look to my bones. Splintered,

spidering out from my center, waving inanely

in the soft gusts through the trees. Once

I may have come from here, my body built

from marrow, distrustful. From old bucks

lain down in peace—in safety—in this same spot.

Here I find myself, a careless tracing of shadows—

former bodies I’ve never known.


Walking on, I don’t worry about the underbrush;

I’ll only scar. I’m not yet wild enough

to be stripped bare. My skin still clings

to shifting muscle; to bones not yet at peace.

See how they fold and break under the weight

of intention. See how far they bend, tendons

snapping at the chance to prove they can return

to more than I am. See how close I get

to the ground. Soon enough I’ll end

up on all fours.