Deer’s Breath of Every Color

Winter rises southeast—
Deer gnaw withered apples
as morning star fades
above indigo canyon.

Concealed in tall feathergrass
mountain lion nestles.
His tan body, mesmerized
like a stone fetish.

Sun blazes amber rays.
Snow powders the deer trail.
A hunter whispers through mist
his flowered prayer,

Muukai-tra Hush-tseh,
Meish guy-you, gumaa-tsinee,
Mountain Lion Man,
it’s already morning, help me.

Climbing Hawk Mountain
through blue juniper terrain
mountain lion leaps,
an arrow blest with pollen.

Winter sets southwest—
Deer in shadow tinged purple
enters spruce tree house
on his breath of every color.


Copyright © 2022 by Max Early. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 8, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“The rejuvenescence of the deer’s life and spirit was the inspiration for this poem. In my Laguna Pueblo community, winter coincides with the renewal of the herd. The hunters display homage to the deer with celebratory and ceremonious deer dances. This is a continuation of sustenance and appreciation, as the deer becomes one with the hunter.”
Max Early