Saturday, January 24, 2009

A MEMORY OF A DEER



It had come down into the city
out of the mountains in the night
and gotten lost, had sensed the dawn,
heard car noises at the corner,
heard the police station and hospital
across the street, and, bewildered,
come into this silence and deeper dark
within the still-dark morning to hide.
Now I, a human, had approached it.
And the deer stood there like a child
caught doing something wrong.

Once I was told that years ago
in summer, deer would come down
out of the humming mountains
through the night and keep going,
swimming the mile-wide inlet
from North Van to downtown.
The city wharves would stop them,
and they would struggle for hours,
trying and trying to get ashore.
In the morning, men would drag up
the exhausted or dead deer
like fish into the nets of their arms.

And once, desperate and dazed, I entered
those cold dark waters, held on
to a broken old wharf that sat there
near the foot of Lonsdale Avenue,
then pushed myself into the inlet
with the intention of swimming out
farther than I could swim back.
But came back, with no idea why,
with no need to know why,
only my own weeping and laughing.

It must have been the memory
of that underground parking lot deer
already coming to life in me
that took me down to the water
that night and made me swim out
and also made me turn around.
Then, the memory must have been
just a pinpoint hidden in my body,
but a light which would begin to burn
and lead me without my knowing it
through time to another night
and to where the deer stood in the dark --

so the light could become the deer,
and the deer, a vision of the deer:
its strong delicate-looking head
and neck as it swims across the water,
its forelegs, flexed haunches, and hind legs
as it lifts itself onto a wharf,
and begins its run through the city
to a forest and a secret herd.

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