The deer chews a tuft of grass
but never swallows, and moves through
the night like fog. I stand on the edge
of the field unable to move closer
or further away. I look down
and my feet have become two pines
rooted in place. The deer rises
into the air, suspended—
its hooves four black diamonds.
My father named this field
Arrowhead after the chiseled quartz
he found in the dirt, this field
on his property line. As a child
I watched him kill this deer, then after,
smear its blood on my face—
a fingerful down my nose, across
my forehead. It felt like sweat
I couldn’t wipe away. On the other side
of the clearcut, smoke rises, the small field
center-lit with droplets of dew.
Fire starts on the tree line, frames
the deer, backlit beneath the moon.
The fire burns but never spreads,
hovering like a knife of sunrise
behind the trees. I can’t see
my father, but I know the shot
will be fired, the cocked rifle always
against his shoulder. I want to yell
at the deer to run but my mouth
is full of leaves. The deer finally drops
from the air. Roots of bone grow
from its head, then fall to the ground
with no sound. The antlers plant
themselves in the wet earth and glow
underground like veins of lightning.
When the deer shakes its coat,
ash falls and hangs in the air
longer than it should like a dirty halo.
The fire smells clean like rain.
About This Unit: Poems on Family and Finding Other Lines of Symmetry
WILLIAM FARGASON is the author of Love Song to the Demon-Possessed Pigs of Gadara (University of Iowa Press, 2020), and the winner of the 2019 Iowa Poetry Prize. His poetry has appeared in the Threepenny Review, Prairie Schooner, New England Review, Barrow Street, Indiana Review, the Cincinnati Review, Narrative, and elsewhere. His nonfiction has appeared in Brevity and the Offing. He earned a BA in English from Auburn University, an MFA in poetry from the University of Maryland, and a PhD in poetry from Florida State University, where he taught creative writing. He is the poetry editor of Split Lip Magazine. He lives with himself in Tallahassee, Florida.