Deer Poem

by Miriam J. Anastasi

honestly my own feelings

exhaust me but my aesthetic is

absolutely where i want

it to be right now ... brown & black

w/ green eyes in autumn foliage
I can appreciate myself as part of a palette & i remember i possess this vessel with
grace, actually, the 
               cool breeze & gathering clouds & the new Big Thief single undoing the summer
of packs of 
               sweating men shouting at me from their pick-up trucks if i could have a
scaffolding of life 
               rather than one of avoidance if i could have a break from performance dig down
into my own 
               warm geosin-rich soil to wrap my palm around those deep sunken structures— 
               what would i find there? what could i see?

what creature lies at the bottom of the pit of indulgence 
its claws scraping across the walls of my wings,

my shoulders 
I hold a bird in my

               palm for you I hold 
I hold a warm crow 
               in my palm its 
               Corvidian intelligence spent emulating my (its mothers) 
               speech I am a many-titted deer creature with

               unshorn antlers the mark

               of my first sex held 
               high & sharp atop my head no scrutiny or impulse

               to clip them for I am proud to have so visible a pain with which 
               I protect my brood 
               & my own hunger spinning inside 
               of me sustains itself on

               the dew off the mountains &

               the sweat of the forest 
               fungus hangs freely on my 
               back an ornament of 
               cyclical mourning a haze 
               of rot hot across my eyes 
Give me the cool dying orange 
               of autumn 
Give me a handful of

               ceylon & a loud room full 
               of trans dykes & a breeze to cut my 
               teeth on

Let me hear the mountain practicing its tinny head-voice or watch the river nick itself
I want a silver maple to crack my back and get rid of these tension headaches 
               Moon mother holy ghost-witness to centuries of untold lovers, if we merely exist
in the eyes 
               of others please lend your sight for me to see myself by 
In pursuit of the mundane I find truth 

My mind is endless my body is endless

I thirst for nothing I hunger for nothing

I saturate myself with the scent of the newness

I welcome myself to the scent of the new

I saturate myself in the love of becoming

I welcome myself to the hymns of the river

I find a holy place inside my body and at first the altar refuses me; 
I find a holy place inside my body and I am rejected from the empty temple, massive
doors barred with 
               thorns and brambles; 
The holy place I find inside my body holds high walls sharp and unscalable gnawing

I find a holy place inside my body and I sink down into its sewer-moat in search of
hidden entryways 
               through the many catacombs my atlas has led me to believe reside beneath: I
dive and grope 
               and sputter along its submerged walls but all the stone I find is undoored
and smooth;

I hoist myself from the holy muck of this forgotten place inside my body and lay myself bare
on its 
               gleaming marble stairwell: the fetid river clings to my skin now, and it is only in
this glorious 
               putrescence that I am at last welcomed;

I find a holy place inside my body and its many barricades catch fire and come crashing
down, no voice 
               booming not to fear;

I find a holy place inside my body and my footsteps echo sharply within its massive
vestibule along 
               pillars of patterned goldwork and statues of long-past cephalophores, stone lips
               on stone heads in hands;

I find a holy place inside my body and I lay out the altar: an obsidian gargoyle bookend
statue from the 
               antique shop in Uptown, found without her mate:

               crystal blue sea glass long-rounded on the granite beaches of New Hampshire:

               the chunk of sun-bleached deer vertebrae Hannah found after catching her foot
in the ribcage 
               in the woods behind her house on my birthday:

               granddad’s old tobacco pipe, still ash-musked:

               a dried bundle of purple amaranth, a crop suited for the warm times to come:

               smoothed pebbles of fired, air-pocked clay washed up on the beaches at Rokeby
from the 
               brickyard across the river:

               hair shed from the last pettings of Claire’s big old red retriever, Hope, now at rest
but whose 
               soft smell and quiet panting still walks with me in my most silent troubled
I find a holy place inside my body and I fill its dry fountain bucket by bucket from the
               trickling in the ceiling and in its red-empty waters I bathe, finding quiet solace and
I find a holy place inside my body and I ward the door with the smell of charcoal and my
               threadbare cardigan, for an unprotected silence is waiting to erupt again;

I find a holy place inside my body and I hang tapestries upon its smooth red walls
depicting each of my 
               lovers, for each one I knew and know myself by;

The sounds of my prayers echo through the high atrium of my holy body, quaking in
crimson light 
               with the humble weight of recognition;

I find a holy place inside my body and I light a candle which places the shadow of Hope
in my lap;

I find a quiet place in the crystalline throngs of memory sprouting from the parapets, their
glow is blue 
               and cold and this time at last I feel no fear;

I find a holy place in my body and it is lying in the Maryland ryegrass with my bike beside
               stretching out my twisting hips to let the demons eke out between the seams,
blue wind, black 
               walnut, mourning dove;

I find a holy place inside my body and I am down at the silt-flecked river again plucking
nylon strings, 
singing the same song, my grief now warm and quite becoming; 
I find a holy place & it is me 12 or 14 kissing a boy on the cheek on his couch not
because I am 
               attracted to him exactly but because he is the only boy who is kind to me and
sometimes he 
               puts his hand on my head and I feel a visceral forbidden wretched kind of pretty
and I have 
               the sense that if I kiss him it will finally turn me into a girl; 
I find a holy place inside the feedbacking bass harmonic that says we miss you, please
come home; 
In a dream Felix jumps into my car with shoplifted snacks from Whole Foods and we are
driving to 
               Philly to see Loone again;

I lose myself in the susurrus of countless holy places;

I find a holy continent of song surfacing from the water that has always been there & I
knew its 
               location from the start;

I find a holy place in my body & it is smoking in the rain beneath the awe of streetlamp
and red 
               awning with my best friend when the threat of my blood clotting still felt utterly

I find a holy place inside my body & it is after giving the platonic head which broke that
long expanse 
               of panicked untouchability & hearing on the fogged walk home Jay Som’s I Think
               Alright and wanting desperately to be in love; 
I find a holy place & it is the great violet river of radiance sludging forward and around
and out from 
               the amp connected to the pretty tall girl whose high bun and owl-shaped face I
catch only a 
               fragment of through the crowd: the river still flowing, now, years after, down the
               cliffside into the river, leaving a torrent of gay worms in its wake; much later this
girl lends me 
               her distortion pedal and the exponential heat held in the footswitch is the highest
pendent in 
               the crystalline chain; 
I find a holy place and it is hiding inside the blue spruce of my body around the corner
from the deli 
               reading The Left Hand of Darkness on my lunch break: I find a hagiography of Ian in
               bound in gold and sprouted garlic, may his Scandinavian orchestral pianist
               bring them both unimaginable wealth and prosperity; 
I uncover hundreds of holy artifacts plumbing the crystalline depths & do not have space
in my 
               messenger bag to hold them & so I move on. 

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