Self Portrait as a Deer My Father Killed

It’s true there are things I do not know —
the paths of arrows, the careful sharpening of metal,
or why you plant acres of radishes 
to lure us, 
              peas and wheat like false gods,
little daggers jabbed into our land,
but I know, gutted and hung from my hind hooves, 
more than you about danger —

it’s the scent of blood dripping over rust. 
It moves the way storms do, over time
             and fields and as much as you try 
you will never scrub it from your skin.
What I know is the secret language 
of moss, the slow rhythm
             of rain that moves 
all beings and wouldn’t you like to see it?
Wouldn’t you like to have touched 
the soft white belly of my young, 
                                          see their pink tongues 
bend at the grass? Wouldn’t you like to have smelled 
the air the way I do, just before dawn?
            Musk and marrow and poison leaves 
turning red in their rut. 

Think of your youngest daughter.
Did you know she came to me 
              last night in this garage?
Pressed her little hand to my fur,
stared into my open body, my ribs spread 
             as if to make the perfect cave for her.
And when she touched my raw flesh I wanted to say
come, rest in me, 
but in truth I said nothing 
             and her child ears heard it all 
— the cold mist of that early morning, the swift 
whisp of your bowstring, arrowhead against bone, 
the blood gushing, making 
             an easy trail for you 
— the way a fawn hears the unsnapping 
of a single leaf from its branch.


Anna Girgenti was a recipient of the 2018 Iowa Chapbook Prize from the University of Iowa for her poetry chapbook, “Asking for Directions.” Her writing has since appeared in Cider Press Review, Lunch Ticket, Cumberland River Review, Zone 3 Press, and Mid-American Review.