The skin shudders, the haunches cave,
intestines unfurl their ruffled waste,
filling the bucket as antlers rut
through dirt and the pale tongue
laps the frozen ground. The deer's
shadow lengthens and crosses over
the fence, escapes to the darkening field
and bare trees where once I stopped to kneel
in spring's bloodwort, when the deer,
calm as a late winter pond, appeared.
The skin is water. The hunter slides
the blade between fur and muscle.
His work is clean. Precise.
He washes his hands in the kitchen sink
and promises me the skin.
I watch him from the wilderness
of a brightly lit room, windows dressed
in frilly curtains. Everything safe
and locked in place. He would have me,
a complacent deer staring
out from a landscape on the wall.
Background of mountains and snow-capped
pines. I stand quietly in a river
flourished with white waves
as salmon spill their eggs.
Who is this Siberian ice maiden?
the TV's narrator asks. Shaman?
Storyteller? The camera pans
the landscape, the excavated ground,
her body disturbed and taken away.
Her body a story of tattoos, ghosted,
the narrator says, by veins of water
that seeped into the tomb over centuries.
Antlers bracelet her arms, a deer leaps
over her ribs and breasts, hooves dig
into her belly. And buried nearby, six
horses, her faithful ride into the afterlife.
Once, I was a captured maiden
with feathers in my hair, who fled
across a creek that became a river
and led to the country of my tribe,
Appaloosa ponies grazing in
the green hedged wilderness
of backyards and fireflies, restless
in jars when we caught them
like the girls inside their bedrooms:
Rosemarie rolling her black hair
on tin cans and Lisa in her books,
mothers calling their daughters
back home, the moon perched
in the twisted branches of trees.
Moonlight scrounges across late winter frost
to lodge inside the carcass where it shines
on ribs wed to the backbone. I break the bucket's icy shroud
and reach my hand inside to find the heart still warm.
Soon, the smell of earth and fur will rise, the white
petals of bloodwort unfold. A deer will come down
to drink from the unhinged edges of a frozen lake.
Footprints lead to a clearing, and fresh horses wait.