Into the Woods, 20: Following the Deer (Part III)
Into the Woods, 22: Following the Deer (L'Envoi)

Into the Woods, 21: Following the Deer (Part IV)

Woodland tapestry detail

by George Oppen

Veritas sequitur ...

In the small beauty of the forest
The wild deer bedding down —

That they are there!

                                  Their eyes
Effortless, the soft lips
Nuzzle and the alien small teeth
Tear at the grass

                                   The roots of it
Dangle from their mouths
Scattering earth in the strange woods.
They who are there.

                                    Their paths
Nibbled thru the fields, the leaves that shade them
Hang in the distances
Of sun

                                     The small nouns
Crying faith
In this in which the wild deer
Startle, and stare out.

Woodland tapestry

Holy Grail tapestry

by Lynn Hardaker

i press
ochred hands onto the walls of this cave. my skin. my shelter.

my fingers crawl like night insects
to sing the running of the animals,
the wind of the chase, the beating of hearts and hooves
across the plains, of stone and dust.

each night i dream the chase
across my eyes’ black-lidded sky
each night
my body slick with sweat and smeared with ash
i run

as i run,
i hear the beating of the drum i’ve made -
taught and resonant - from my own skin,
feel the weight of the weapon i’ve made
from my own bone.

i leave the fire-painted walls
of this illusion

and i run

under the cool, many-eyed gaze of the night
i run until i feel my heart will beat its last beat and tear through my skin
i stop

my fear as dry as the dirt in my mouth.

i lower my antlers to the pool
and drink the stars.

Detail from the Holy Grail tapestry

Detail from the Devonshire Hunting Tapestries

The Hunt of the Unicorn tapestry

The Faces of Deer
by Mary Oliver

When for too long I don't go deep enough
into the woods to see them, they begin to
enter my dreams. Yes, there they are, in the
pinewoods of my inner life. I want to live a life
full of modesty and praise. Each hoof of each
animal makes the sign of a heart as it touches
then lifts away from the ground. Unless you
believe that heaven is very near, how will you
find it? Their eyes are pools in which one
would be content, on any summer afternoon,
to swim away through the door of the world.
Then, love and its blessing. Then: heaven.

Go here for Following the Deer (L'Envoi)

A detail from the Winged Deer tapestry, medieval French

The Winged Deer tapestry in my studio  based on a medieval design

Deer tapestries above: The Woodland tapestry designed by John Henry Dearle for Morris & Co. (English, late 19th century); The Quest for the Holy Grail tapestry designed by William Morris for Morris & Co. (English, late 19th century); a detail from one of the four Devonshire Hunting Tapesteries (medieval French); one of the seven tapestries in the Hunt of the Unicorn series (medieval Dutch); and Tilly sits with the winged deer in the tapestry hanging over the studio sofa. The design is medieval French.

Publication credits: "Psalm" by George Oppen was published in New Collected Poems by George Oppen, 1965; "skin" by Lynn Hardaker was published in Mythic Delirium # 28, Winter/Spring 2013 issue; "The Faces of Deer" by Mary Oliver was published in New & Selected Poems, Vol. 2 by Mary Oliver, 2005.


Heart Tracks

A deer walked by here,
little tracks like hearts,
and what he leaves behind
makes my heart go faster.

A deer walked by here,
flag of tail waving,
a banner of farewell,
and the little hearts left behind.

A deer walked by here
scuffing the dirt with passing,
cut grass on the verges,
and the hearts left as a sign.

A deer walked by here
a single print of passage,
one single heart broken,
and it is mine.

©2013 Jane Yolen all rights reserved

A beautiful response, Jane. Just beautiful.

Your 'following the deer' series is just gorgeous, Terri.
It's a privilege to have my poem here, nestled amongst such beauty woven of images and of words.
Many thanks.
It's always a joy to read Jane's - and others' - poems in the comments.

Somehow, though I am back able to post on my own, I seem to be posting as Mom!!! Sorry about that. I am Mom to three terrific people, just not Terri's Mmm, though I am certainly old enough.

Am loving these deer posts, Terri.


The privilege is mine, Lynn - thank you for contributing your haunting poem to Myth & Moor's "deer week." (A cave painting of deer would have been a better illustration for it, of course, but it fit the spirit of this last deer post so perfectly all the same, nestled between Oppen and Oliver.)

And many thanks to Mike Allen of Mythic Delirium too, for graciously allowing us to reprint the poem here so soon after its initial publication.

One last thing for "Deer Week":

Do you have any favorite deer novels, stories, children's books or poems to recommend? Here are some of mine...

The Fall of the Kings by Ellen Kushner & Delia Sherman
Stepping from the Shadows by Patricia McKillip
Soul-string by Midori Snyder

"The Lady Artemis" by Sara Maitland (from her story collection The Angel Maker)
"Hunter's Moon" by Patricia McKillip (from The Green Man)
"The Children of Cadmus" by Ellen Kushner (from The Beastly Bride)
"The Smell of Deer" by Kent Myers (reprinted in The Year's Best Fantasy & Horror, Volume 13)

...and all the gorgeous deer poetry by Mary Oliver.

I also love Through the Eye of the Deer, an anthology of Native American poetry and prose edited by Carol Comfort & Carolyn Dunn

If we can include reindeer, I'd add...

Reindeer Moon (novel) by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas

The Girl Who Married a Reindeer (poem) by Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, which can be read online here:

Heart and Blood by naturalist Richard Nelson is the best nonfiction book about deer that I've read -- and I read a lot of them when I was writing The Wood Wife. (I'll never forget the night I watched the Easter deer dances, at one of the Yaqui villages in Tucson, with Richard Nelson and Gary Nabhan, and first learned about deers "dancing" in the wild.)


Once in another
I saw a deer
(Decade, continent, dream).

Summer with blueberry frosts
Nettles unlike
Ivy alien, poisonous
(Rhymes, fables, ours).

Whipcrack of cousins
Tumbled broad lawn
Perhaps a house
I do not remember
Into the cold
Well of the woods.

There the deer
Clear as a moonless night
(Tapestry, poem, blood-rite)
Out of another.

-K Jennings

Lynn, this is a beautiful poem! I copied it to my desktop - hope that's OK? I want to read it to my Myth & Symbol class as an "inpsirational tidbit' at the start of class one day.

Oh how I'd love to see that illustrated with your art!

I have a children' book, The Transfigured Hart, about a white deer that becomes a unicorn. And there's also James Thurber's White Deer about a woman transformed into a white deer.

Of course, Valerianna!
And I'd be honoured if you were to read it in your class.

I'm swimming in Mary Oliver, "I want to live a life
full of modesty and praise." But I am carnivorous, though only once, in my twenties when I visited a hunters cabin, have I consumed deer meat. I recall it tasted wild. How can I be modest in a world where I am part of the food chain. How can I praise what I eat from carrot, to carcass, when nothing I do to survive is entirely pure. These obstinate questions come and go, and dreams are where I seek refuge. They alone are the original forest and field, mountain and stream, cold, clear, reflecting the swirling stars above. There is no hunger there, no difference between me and the animal running beside me as I pass through walls into the wild whatever. There I meet the deer in council, the bear in it's cave, the otter at the dam, the porpoise in the wave. There I am free to simply be the animal in me. Meanwhile I will search for that Thurber story. I have seen the white deer and feel a certain kinship.

Michelle, have you read the poem "Inside," by Linda Hogan (writer-in-residence for the Chickasaw Nation)?

Oh sweet Tillie sitting on her tapestry-cloaked sofa looking like a meek little doe. Your posts are graceful & soft. x

Oh, how you continue to draw us into the prescence of belief that "Heaven is very near"! Thankyou for such a Stunning week of posts - visually and lyrically !
Peace & Love ~

PERFECT...thank you Terri with these hands and heart made of shadows consumed, from myself who is all that...

by Linda Hogan

How something is made flesh
no one can say. The buffalo soup
becomes a woman
who sings every day to her horses
or summons another to her private body
saying come, touch, this is how
it begins, the path of a newly born
who, salvaged from other lives and worlds,
will grow to become a woman, a man,
with a heart that never rests,
and the gathered berries,
the wild grapes
enter the body,
human wine
which can love,
where nothing created is wasted;
the swallowed grain
takes you through the dreams
of another night,
the deer meat becomes hands
strong enough to work.

But I love most
the white-haired creature
eating green leaves;
the sun shines there
swallowed, showing in her face
taking in all the light,

and in the end
when the shadow from the ground
enters the body and remains,
in the end, you might say,
This is myself
still unknown, still a mystery.

Moving....and heartfelt...more to hope to see in a book of Yolen's Myth and Mindfulness.


I have Thurber;s White Deer on my fairytale and mythic shelves. I read it when I was very
young. It always leaves me with an odd feeling, as if I have encountered her or some-one
like her in the woods.

Thank you for your kind words, James. For an old pagan like me, the earth itself is heaven and we're immersed in the sacred landscape daily.

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