Luc Olivier Merson, 1897
When the deer appeared in the yard, I was slicing
tomatoes for dinner, the knife
ringing the plate with each slice,
but the deer hear everything, so I stopped.
The husband saw them too. It’s the end of summer,
he said to me, in my head. We saw
the female deer was getting that soft gray
on her coat, and the fawns maturing.
It’s the end of something, he said
inside my head. We watched the animals browse
underneath the oak with their slim snouts,
surviving. They would be thin come winter, but
from where we stood, the world outside
looked like a children’s story: imaginary deer
moving on delicate, knotty legs,
the day getting that catch-all romantic glow
from the sun’s leaving the world again. That momentary
articulation between hunger and beauty,
between force and rest. I remembered
a painting I saw as a child: a sterile desert, a sleeping man,
and above him, a sphinx dominating the sand.
A woman and an infant rest on the statue,
the baby glowing like a candled egg. The caption in capitals:
REST ON THE FLIGHT INTO EGYPT. I think, too,
there was a skinny mule, grazing on almost nothing.
This had something to do with history,
but that didn’t matter. A family lost or found;
I didn’t know which. To me they were lonely, the sky
so true to form, stubborn and inattentive,
decorated with tiny stars.
I’ve had enough, the sun said in my head,
of your sense of things. It went away. The deer
dissolved into dusk. I hope they are safe in a real home,
which doesn’t seem all that much to want to have.
It was that kind of evening, unspectacular, unbound.
The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.