I once had a student who would vow

to speak no words for a week,

notifying me ahead of class by email.

I called her the deer person—

curious, shy. I somehow understood

she still read the assignments carefully.


Buoyancy, that’s something I haven’t felt

for a while. Wisdom, the Zen monks say,

is a ready mind. Mastery: if we

could detach ourselves from individuality

and yet retain a deeply specific voice.

An owl becoming the village voice at night.


Flank against flank, the friendlier mule deer

gather, then the skittish white tail.

Only the does can slip under the heavy lid

of wakefulness. The bucks bed alone,

backed against rocks or the trunks of trees.

They huff as they settle, non-conversant.


As if I were helping someone carry

a non-ambulatory large child, the future

has turned awkward and untenable.

I use packets of flower seeds to bookmark

my place through the winters.

Even the person with two parents is gone.


Biologists say that the deer are synanthropic.

As if it weren’t their world, too. I read

the news on my phone, and my mind fills.

A thought, like a coat snagged on barbed wire

because I didn’t duck low enough to clear it:

the deer will still be here to suffer with us.