Posted by: gdevi | December 1, 2009

Harry Humes, Deer

All classes more or less empty today–second day of hunting. Boys and girls gone with grandpas and dads and uncles hunting, or huntin’ as they say in central Pennsylvania. It is startling–even when you drive along the river you hear the muffled shots away in the woods at a distance. Every semester I get at least three four essays about deer hunting. My favorite one was a spiny essay by a serious deer hunter who wrote about breaking up with his girlfriend who insisted on going deer hunting with him. The girlfriend wanted to have sex with him in the woods. It was sacrilegious to him–you don’t have sex in the woods and go out and shoot a deer. He was so annoyed with the girlfriend, it was like an anthropology lesson to me. If I remember correctly, there were all these things that he wrote about very beautifully–all these ritualistic relations deer hunters have with the deer that they hunt and kill; how clean and pure in mind and body they should be when they hunt and apparently this girlfriend just wasn’t getting it. It was very interesting. Everyday you learn something.

To me, the definitive poem for the season is Pennsylvania’s own Harry Humes and this poem “Deer.” Very very beautiful. I have seen these thirteen deer.


For nearly an hour in the early April dusk

I watched thirteen deer slowly feed

across winter wheat. You’d  have thought

them part of the sky, so buoyant

they seemed, so delicately attached to earth,

black hooves hardly bending the wheat.

Every once in a while one would look

to where I knelt in a corner

of the L-shaped field, and stamp its foot,

ears nervous over the dark eyes

and the delicate lines of nose and neck,

or twitch its brilliant white tail.

Though I’d neither moved nor coughed

something had drifted across the evening,

that took them, unhurried, toward the field’s edge

and over its border of dry pennyroyal

and briars, and into the woods, where one by one,

in that place, their shyness vanished

into the shyness among the trees.


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