Time Capsule: The Fallow Deer
by Erin Rodoni
Reader, they have slaughtered the white deer of my childhood.
My father enchanted them into unicorns as they drifted in with the fog
that filled our valleys. They were imports, ornamental. Shipped in
by some rich eccentric for his pleasure. Reader, it’s true: they outgrew
their pen, outlived their keeper. Up close they were not white, really,
more day-old snow, their fur matted with ticks and burrs. Their horns not spiral,
but branched. Reader, they were nothing like unicorns, but I loved
to spot them from my father’s truck as we drove the tangled road
to the coast. How they came out like stars in the scrub oak.
My father kept a gun in the back seat. He kept a season for the killing,
the other three for wonder. I woke once to headlights
slashed across my bedroom window, a buck strung up
by his hind legs in the pear tree, belly split sternum to pelvis,
my father cutting him down into pieces we could swallow.
Those evenings though, my father never fired, only whistled
to startle them up from their grazing, so I could call them
by their horns: button buck, spike, doe. They called them invasive
and shot them from helicopters. Who were they, Reader, to draw
the line of belonging? The white deer were my fireflies,
my everyday magic. But who am I? In the crackle of starlight,
above dry leaves soaked silent, the dead buck shone,
nothing like a unicorn. Up close it is harder to stand what we do
with this awe, with these hands.
Erin Rodoni is the author of two poetry collections: Body, in Good Light and A Landscape for Loss. Her poems have recently been published in Blackbird, Poetry Northwest, The Adroit Journal, The Rumpus, and Fairy Tale Review. Her honors include the Montreal International Poetry Prize, a Ninth Letter Literary Award, and an AWP Intro Journals Award. She teaches at the Writing Salon in San Francisco, and lives with her husband and two daughters in San Rafael, CA.