Deer Hit

Jon Loomis

 
You're seventeen and tunnel-vision drunk,
swerving your father's Fairlane wagon home
at 3:00 a.m. Two-lane road, all curves
and dips—dark woods, a stream, a patchy acre
of teazle and grass. You don't see the deer
till they turn their heads—road full of eyeballs,
small moons glowing. You crank the wheel,
stamp both feet on the brake, skid and jolt
into the ditch. Glitter and crunch of broken glass
in your lap, deer hair drifting like dust. Your chin
and shirt are soaked—one eye half-obscured
by the cocked bridge of your nose. The car
still running, its lights angled up at the trees.
You get out. The deer lies on its side.
A doe, spinning itself around
in a frantic circle, front legs scrambling,
back legs paralyzed, dead. Making a sound—
again and again this terrible bleat.
You watch for a while. It tires, lies still.
And here's what you do: pick the deer up
like a bride. Wrestle it into the back of the car—
the seat folded down. Somehow, you steer
the wagon out of the ditch and head home,
night rushing in through the broken window,
headlight dangling, side-mirror gone.
Your nose throbs, something stabs
in your side. The deer breathing behind you,
shallow and fast. A stoplight, you're almost home
and the deer scrambles to life, its long head
appears like a ghost in the rearview mirror
and bites you, its teeth clamp down on your shoulder
and maybe you scream, you struggle and flail
till the deer, exhausted, lets go and lies down.
2
Your father's waiting up, watching tv.
He's had a few drinks and he's angry.
Christ, he says, when you let yourself in.
It's Night of the Living Dead. You tell him
some of what happened: the dark road,
the deer you couldn't avoid. Outside, he circles
the car. Jesus, he says. A long silence.
Son of a bitch, looking in. He opens the tailgate,
drags the quivering deer out by a leg.
What can you tell him—you weren't thinking,
you'd injured your head? You wanted to fix
what you'd broken—restore the beautiful body,
color of wet straw, color of oak leaves in winter?
The deer shudders and bleats in the driveway.
Your father walks to the toolshed,
comes back lugging a concrete block.
Some things stay with you. Dumping the body
deep in the woods, like a gangster. The dent
in your nose. All your life, the trail of ruin you leave.
 
From The Pleasure Principle by Jon Loomis. Reprinted by permission of Oberlin College Press, Field Poetry Series, v. 11. Copyright © 2001 by Jon Loomis. All rights reserved.

Further Reading

Poems about Deer
Deer Dancer
by Joy Harjo
Deer, 6:00 AM
by Sarah Getty
Earthy Anecdote
by Wallace Stevens
How to See Deer
by Philip Booth
The City of God
by David Baker
The Supple Deer
by Jane Hirshfield
Winter Study
by Mark Wunderlich
Poems about Drinking
"To Speak of Woe That Is in Marriage"
by Robert Lowell
Driving and Drinking [North to Parowan Gap]
by David Lee
A Drinking Song
by W. B. Yeats
A Glass of Beer
by James Stephens
At the Blue Note
by Pablo Medina
Be Drunk
by Charles Baudelaire
California Plush
by Frank Bidart
Compulsively Allergic to the Truth
by Jeffrey McDaniel
Dangerous for Girls
by Connie Voisine
Days of Me
by Stuart Dischell
Deer Dancer
by Joy Harjo
Fallen Apples
by Tom Hansen
Father Listens to the Artists
by David Petruzelli
Homecoming
by Robert Lowell
I Love the Hour Just Before
by Todd Boss
I taste a liquor never brewed (214)
by Emily Dickinson
In Knowledge of Young Boys
by Toi Derricotte
In Vino Veritas
by Howard Altmann
Jet
by Tony Hoagland
Joey Awake Now
by Glyn Maxwell
Love is Not All (Sonnet XXX)
by Edna St. Vincent Millay
Michael's Wine
by Sandra Alcosser
My Papa's Waltz
by Theodore Roethke
Nights
by Harvey Shapiro
On 52nd Street
by Philip Levine
Parties: A Hymn of Hate
by Dorothy Parker
Picking Up
by Evelyn Duncan
Scrambled Eggs and Whiskey
by Hayden Carruth
Shooting Rats at the Bibb County Dump
by David Bottoms
The Bottom
by Denise Duhamel
The Drunken Fisherman
by Robert Lowell
The Eternal City
by Jim Simmerman
The Silence
by Philip Schultz
the suicide kid
by Charles Bukowski
The Summer House
by Tony Connor
Vodka
by Joel Brouwer
When a Woman Loves a Man
by David Lehman
Wine Tasting
by Kim Addonizio
Poems Teens Like
Howl, Parts I & II
by Allen Ginsberg
A Muse
by Reginald Shepherd
Alice at Seventeen: Like a Blind Child
by Darcy Cummings
Ave Maria
by Frank O'Hara
Ballad
by Sonia Sanchez
Because it looked hotter that way
by Camille T. Dungy
Charlotte Brontë in Leeds Point
by Stephen Dunn
Cicada
by John Blair
Coach Losing His Daughter
by Jack Ridl
Dangerous for Girls
by Connie Voisine
Falling
by James Dickey
Flowers of Rad
by Sampson Starkweather
Ground Swell
by Mark Jarman
homage to my hips
by Lucille Clifton
In Knowledge of Young Boys
by Toi Derricotte
Lady Tactics
by Anne Waldman
Mairsy and Dosey
by Sharon Olds
Making a Fist
by Naomi Shihab Nye
Mermaid Song
by Kim Addonizio
Notes from the Other Side
by Jane Kenyon
Patience
by Kay Ryan
Possum Crossing
by Nikki Giovanni
Sticks
by Thomas Sayers Ellis
Thanks
by W. S. Merwin
That Sure is My Little Dog
by Eleanor Lerman
The Changing Light
by Lawrence Ferlinghetti
The Fist
by Derek Walcott
The New Higher
by John Ashbery
The Pomegranate
by Eavan Boland
The Wild Iris
by Louise Glück
The Young Man's Song
by W. B. Yeats
White Apples
by Donald Hall
Workshop
by Billy Collins