Dreams of deer

Brother and Sister by Cremonini

I have another deer poem for you today, a psalm for the wild ones of the forest.

Fawn by Kiki SmithThe enchanted deer in the pictures above and below come from two classic French fairy volumes. Above is "Brother and Sister" from Les contes de Grimm, illustrated by Cremonini (Editions Fabbri, 1965). Below is "Bright, Dear Deer, and Kit" from Le livre des bêtes enchantées, illustrated by Adrienne Ségur (Flammarion, 1956). Selections from Le livre des bêtes enchantées and an earlier volume, Il était une fois, were published in the U.S. as The Golden Book of Fairy Tales, translated by Marie Ponsot (Golden Books, 1958).

The illustration on the right is "Fawn," by the German-American artist Kiki Smith. Alas, I have no idea where the final photograph is from...but isn't it marvelous?

Bright, Dear Deer, and Kit by Adrienne Segur

Old photograph, provenance unknown


Deer prayers

Three Does and a Kid by Donna Howell-Sickles

This morning when I looked out the roof window
before dawn and
a few stars were still caught
in the fragile weft of ebony night
I was overwhelmed. I sang the song Louis taught me:
a song to call the deer in Creek, when hunting,
and I am certainly hunting something as magic as deer
in this city far from the hammock of my mother’s belly.
It works, of course, and deer came into this room
and wondered at finding themselves
in a house near downtown Denver...

- Joy Harjo (from my favorite Harjo poem, "Song for the Deer and Myself to Return On")

Stray fawn in downtown Santa Fe, New Mexico, July 2013

Queen Anne's Lace, Devon

...And so we close our eyes when we pray to seek the blindness
that offers a window into the world,
                                                     & the world within this one,
sudden rain so fine it could be just a trick of the wind & the light,
                                                                                            there & gone,
as the deer move off, through the silky wilds
                                                                of Queen Anne's lace,
through clover scatter-brushed in the grasses,
the long grasses that hold the traces of their passing

for a moment only, & beneath the old pear trees
already heavy with their suns,
with the cities of clouds the caterpillars
have spun for their tombs
                                     as they move from this life & into the next one.
And we, with our rain-limned bodies, listening
for the echoes of our prayers to return,
to the aethereal bodies drifting so close
                                                       & out of sight,
listening hard for the sound of our own disappearance.

- Mark Wagonaar (from "Deer Hour Gospel")

Deer Amonst the Trees and Forest Deer Trio by Tony Abeyta

I'd seen
their hoofprints in the deep
needles and knew
they ended the long night
under the pines...

I was thinking:
so this is how you swim inward,
so this is how you flow outward,
so this is how you pray.

- Mary Oliver (from my favorite Oliver poem, "Five A.M. in the Pinewoods")

Deer Dancer by Tony Abeyta

Hunting Processional by Tony Abeyta

I somehow overlooked these deer pictures (from the American South-west) during our Deer Week back in early July. The drawing at the top is "Three Does and a Kid" by "cowgirl" artist Donna Howell-Sickles, from Texas. The paintings are by Toby Abeyta, a young Navajo/Anglo artist from New Mexico: "Deer Amongst the Trees," "Forest Deer Trio,"  "Deer Dancer," and the two-part "Hunting Processional."  Please visit the artists' websites to see more of their beautiful work. The deer photo is of a stray fawn found at the City Hall in downtown Santa Fe, New Mexio, this summer. It's now at the Wildlife Center in Espanola and will be released into the wild after rehabiliation.   

I should mention that it's going to be a particularly busy month here at Bumblehill, due to deadlines, guests, and a family member's impending move. I'll keep posting, but the posts may be shorter & quicker over the weeks ahead. I''ll continue on with the  "Into the Woods" series when time permits, and will return to it fully in September.


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

Woodland tapestry detail

Psalm
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

skin
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.