a literary journal published by the Black Earth Institute dedicated to re-forging the links between art and spirit, earth and society
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.
Melissa Kwasny is the author of seven books of poetry, most recently Where Outside the Body is the Soul Today (Pacific Northwest Poetry Series, University of Washington Press, edited by Linda Bierds) and the forthcoming The Cloud Path (Milkweed Editions 2024), as well as a collection of essays, Earth Recitals: Essays on Image and Vision. Her first full length nonfiction book, Putting on the Dog: The Animal Origins of What We Wear, explores the cultural, labor, and environmental histories of clothing materials provided by animals. She is also the editor of two anthologies: I Go to the Ruined Place: Contemporary Poets in Defense of Global Human Rights and Toward the Open Field: Poets on the Art of Poetry 1800-1950. She was Montana Poet Laureate from 2019-2021, a position she shared with M.L. Smoker.