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Deer in the City by Patricia Karamesines

by Patricia | 4.08.11

When winter beats its broad path
across fields, kneeling the weed
and setting, too, over sage and oak,
deep white pavement;
after wasps and beetles
have borne off, crumb by crumb,
rusted plum and apple pulp
so far beyond the last gather
the ground where they fell
no longer smells of cider;
when there is light instead of leaf
on the branch, star instead of pear,
deer walk as far into the city at night
as the park, smelling out sapling tips
and the palatable rare hedge.

Deer in the city after dusk—
they are not owls living in night’s
ruins above the streetlamps,
or feral cats that brawl
in the crawlspace beneath parked cars,
or rats, rummaging dim-lit alleys
for day’s spoils and parings.
Deer step as bare-legged
as strayed nymphs
though harrowed snow.
Their tracks form
in neighborhood schoolyards
like mushroom rings.

When the thaw greens
the high cold country
and suppling twigs may be bitten,
spring’s flower fleece shorn;
when snowmelt wears away lack,
releasing odor and fiber;
and shut trees opening
drop their first pale shadows,
they who have risked
discovery by hunger,
who walked through yard clutter
like pheasants through cut hay,
will go into forests of thunder
on mountaintops,
up onto aging meadows,
where they become themselves:
wild brown deer with black hooves.


Patricia roams and writes in southeastern Utah. She has received several literary awards for poetry, essays, and fiction, including from Brigham Young University, the University of Arizona, the Utah Arts Council, and the Utah Wilderness Association. A poet, essayist, and novelist, she has published in literary journals and popular magazines locally and nationally. Her novel The Pictograph Murders (2004 Signature Books) won the 2004 Association for Mormon Letters’ Award for the Novel. She writes sometimes for the Mormon arts and culture blog A Motley Vision, but her heart belongs to AMV’s companion blog Wilderness Interface Zone , a dream coming truer and truer.

*non-contest submission*

5 Responses to Deer in the City by Patricia Karamesines

  1. Patricia

    Harlow’s “Beautification” reminded me that I had “Deer in the City,” which I wrote during one extraordinarily snowy winter in Provo when deer came further into the city than I’d ever seen them to stave off starvation.

    I thought the poem might go nicely with Harlow’s.

  2. Carla Martin-Wood

    This is utterly stunning, Patricia, in the way these natural, but mystical creatures are stunning in the unfamiliar habitat of man. Beautiful work.

  3. Sarah Dunster

    We have this very lovely book about a deer and his mother, and what they eat with each season. This poem brings back the image of that book.

    One of my favorite lines from the book comes when the deer switch from eating acorns to eating oak, and then eating birch, and then they eat fir and see a fir tree through the window of a home. The little deer asks, “Mother, do we have christmas?” And the mother deer answers, “No, we have Spring.”

    I feel the joy of spring, reading this, and how it seems like everything is rejoicing and celebrating after making it through the winter.

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