“Hill,” a poem by Margaret Reges, appeared in the Winter 2012 issue of MQR.
Tangled against the river the red-gray thump of the feet of deer in the half-frozen mud and the sear of dry branches torn from the living, a yellow-orange strip of barkless wood on the trunk and the tender wet where the branch was torn crystallizing in the cold, and trees like a mesh of black oil.
The mud half-frozen, a spray of ice particles yellowing in the branches and the slash of white at the throat of a stag in the dry bracken, head forward and lunging at the hill, the low branches stripped with the weight, wrenched from the sides of trees.
Near the river, the blank bulk of several deer stripping the bark from the young trees with their teeth, breath guttering out in faint clouds, and trees stripped of bark up to their middles all about the riverbank, stark yellow-white bars in the mud.
And deer at night climbing the hill to the wooden deck, and full on into the glass door, the door dribbling into white splinters and black smear of blood on the fetlocks and about the tender-stiff halves of the hoof.
And stamping bits of glass from the legs, and bits of early snow breaking out into the deck light, the stag half-lit in the lamp, the house itself dark, and the darkness overlarge, filling the chest with fluid.
Somewhere outside of the house deer licking salt from the raw planks of the deck, the air hissing through their teeth, and mud-dark sheen at the muzzle.
And in the half-light movement of ragged dark the stag plunging through the house, the face half-pale with guttering light, and pale liquid sheen of the eye, glossy black mud, river water.
And the stag galloping into a wall, the wall blackening into the long edges of a field, of the saw-edged light of frozen grasses, and the stag overlarge, the stag running.
Image: Detail of “Stag at Echo Rock.” Late 19th century. Oil on canvas. Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington D.C.