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The Deer

Vital enough to multiply
and multiply and multiply,

a genetic tactic evolved in an era
when wildcats, bears and bowmen
thinned their numbers.

Not just any leaf will feed a deer.
What might be eaten in the woodland
mostly has been.

Now even gardens in the suburbs
act as a lure, uprootings and sheared-off
stems the source of swear-words
for gardeners who planted
corn, lettuce or cosmos.

No one has taught the herds to notice,
but ticks the size of a pinhead
pepper their bodies,
increasing now in number, not decreasing.

The deer returns any curious stare
with his lyrical Asian gaze, 
one ear flicking, then the other,
velvet still on his horns,
the coat dense as tan-gray sand.

No calm is so secure. Without being told
he knows the Buddha
once preached in a deer park. 
He wasn’t there but the ancestral memory
is so strong he is not here now.






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Alfred Corn is the author of eleven books of poems, the most recent titled Unions (2015) and two novels, the second titled Miranda’s Book, which also appeared in 2015. His two collections of essays are The Metamorphoses of Metaphor and Atlas: Selected Essays, 1989-2007.  He has received the Guggenheim, the NEA, an Award in Literature from the Academy of Arts and Letters, and one from the Academy of American Poets. A new collection of essays titled Arks & Covenants appeared in May of 2017. In October of 2016, Roads Taken, a celebration of the 40th anniversary of Alfred Corn’s first book All Roads at Once was held at Poets’ House in New York City, and in November 2017 he was inducted into the Georgia Writers’ Hall of Fame.