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Practicing the World

Happy Hour

Ever since the first snow
following your death
deer have been appearing
in our yard around the time
we’d return to the fire
to drink martinis.

When the first pair emerged
in their dusky coats, one gazed
so long into my eyes
I almost believed I’d entered
the dream I’ve been craving—
the one where you return
in a disguise I see right through.

In our early days I said, you seemed deer-like
with your fawn-dark eyes, delicate wrists.
What about my studly biceps?
you asked, flexing. Each night I enter sleep,
ears perked for your laughter
or for the soft whisper of hooves on snow.

I drift back to the earliest days
of deer and human,
through hunger and wonder,
to the magic of sudden apparition
under the opal moon’s hypnosis.
Back to the ancient belief
that a deer’s luminous leap
could leave this world
and land in the next.

This afternoon when I found an antler
in the snow-dazed garden
I didn’t recognize it.
Rib-length, it was pronged
the way I pictured your bones
when pain pierced you from within.

But as my fingers closed
over its cool curve,
all the heat of the buck stung my eyes.
His loss is temporary.
New antlers will bud above his eyes
in time for mating season.
And I will be watching.