by L.J. Carber
I saw them a few weeks ago. My wife called me, something urgent– so I left the computer and went to see what so excited her.
Three deer, 3 young deer meandering around our ¼ acre backyard.
They look thin, she said– I agreed
(not saying it was not a good sign with winter coming near).
We enjoyed watching them through our plate glass door, their
casual grace, that elegance of walk deer have when unafraid.
They were special, even more than the occasional cardinal
alighting in our yard like a breathing ruby with wings– so
we stayed as still as possible. I told her that deer can only see
what moves, so we held ourselves tight like insensate statues.
Two of these white-tailed beauties grazed daintily on the ground
but the third was drawn to our giant holly tree, resplendent
with its myriad red berries, like necklaces thrown capricious.
I was concerned– something alarming about even deer drawn
like the proverbial moth– safe, I wondered, for deer or tree?
The triplets soon left our yard, as casually as they had come,
and a week went by– then one day a single deer came back.
I say back because she went straight for the holly tree, and
I banged on the plate glass door and yelled as fierce as an
old man can yell to scare off the now unwanted intruder, for
something told me the holly tree would be death to the deer.
She fled, but the next day came back again, again alone, and
again with eyes only for that tree, an Eve that could not say
no to the forbidden fruit– or berries or leaves it appears.
Again I chased her away, and for a few days saw no return.
Then one brisk morning our neighbor called– he saw what
we could not see in the deep green thickness of that holly tree.
The doe lay sleeping under its canopy (so death always seems
with animals, unlike a human corpse where something is gone),
killed it seemed by berries or the leaves of the innocent tree.
I called my township– they said, put the carcass by the street,
we’ll send someone to pick it up– but I couldn’t, or wouldn’t.
Not just because I walk with a cane, and am old and unsure
how such a moving would be done– no, no, it was more–
when I saw the deer lying sheltered beneath the tree it loved,
the tree it died for, it seemed a sacred place, consecrated–
and I could not bring myself to violate nature’s holy ground.
Fortunately I have a neighbor who is not sentimental, and he
dragged the dead doe roughly to the curb, and I knew, by
its pungent unearthly smell of death, it was the only answer.
L.J. Carber, 75, became a published poet in his 8th decade in over 110 literary journals/anthologies in 7 countries and two trade book collections: The Enormity of Existence  and Of Ether and Earth . Both titles and much of his work reflect the awareness he’s had for over 1/2 a century since having an NDE whilst almost drowning in a Vermont river: That he has, IS, a consciousness that predates birth and survives death, what poets once called a soul. Nominated in 2022 for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net, he’s a retired teacher [America, Japan, Taiwan, Cambodia] who has been married 42 years to a smart and beautiful Taiwanese woman.