William C. Olsen – The Afterlife of Deer

//William C. Olsen – The Afterlife of Deer

William C. Olsen – The Afterlife of Deer

William C. Olsen

The Afterlife of Deer

Anything but unsurprising is
a habit deer have 
What they are to me until they happen

in snow/leaf/wind
is nothing if not always serendipitous
In my globe of space and time
they change place with one another That
is what memory is 

That is why we die
shadows of scud-clouds scudded across winter’s 

blade-scraped ice 
heaven is the same
for them

frozen pond
empty swing sets

unfortunate birth
uncontrollable circumstance

they dream of corn
our underworld 
this ice pond 

Heaven’s roof we walk gingerly upon
or its ceiling cracks
Death is beneath us

Heaven is beneath us
Earth is beneath us
Joy is beneath us Contempt

is only human

We are told not to feed 
Whatever record left behind
only yesterday

The nuanced tilt of the two halves 
of the hoof prints 
whatever thought them up

not all that mindful
The oaks start bearing
pea-sized acorns

cut down on predators 
there is no other choice but life and more life
or less

and let the animals starve
and not to feed
just watch That was what our life was

Their tracks get all mixed up for us
Their silence is 
unheard of 

a time before paradise or loss
that calm of theirs good sense
Best to go unseen

How have their carcasses been disposed
You can’t see hear
you can’t even smell 

such sour silence 

Did I tell you about three of them
the family I talked to 
as to a pet or a child

baby talk what I said depending
so little on them
surprise didn’t speak a word it washed its hands

Their very appearance is a cliff
I walk off 
and fall to earth and live to tell Their Story

My memory
is a thief and my imagination 
an undertaker 

some family 

Harvest midnight
Carcass strung up on a basketball hoop
is still twirling 

Harvest bleeds
on driveway 
the sun shining down Where you are
they are
never to be lost or found

no ghost with pen can put to speech or song
one who looked up at me
from the golf course

through the windshield of my moving car
made eye contact and held it 
and looked and looked

Memory drove away

sight of tongue
sleight of eyes
They disappear only to reappear

key deer all trust and littleness
shying almost
right up to us

in a dream they showed up dark green
bleeding sap
from the teeth of a backhoe

And did I tell you about the 
one just

I was the guy
whose office window that one walked by 
like I wasn’t there

indifferent if from many singled out
one of those heavenly days
beautiful enough to die

Deer grazing up in the clouds 
able to bear 

Look up there
Up there
are spring flowers and overgrazing and harvest

Not so near nor so far
No ghost pen can put to tune or speech
wind both fierce and light

Grazing on snow falling upwards
for all I know
All I know

hurts and the afterlife 
of a world of hurt
lets me near them

Above that you are able
to escape that you are
or may be able to bear 

the one who walked out of the scrub
across beach front right
up to lake was no longer a cherub with antlers

and bent down as if 
it were itself an if
and lowered a head as an if

and drank from the if-ebb
It might have been a ghost 
Alive still or probably not

death doesn’t have a prayer

William Olsen‘s most recent collection of poetry is Sand Theory (Northwestern, 2011). He teaches at Vermont College and Western Michigan University. He lives in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

By |2018-12-05T15:26:24+00:00December 5th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

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