Dear Deer in the Compost Pile
by Patricia Caspers
Though it’s drought season
and every very thing is dead yellow, and the sun
doesn’t feel like friend,
I spend all day on the deck
with a fan, a laptop, and a cup of ice water.
I tap at the alphabet while a single deer
taps at the dirt beyond the brush
on the far side of the tree line.
He’s skinny, and his antlers
are nubs, like dusty cattails, and slowly
he hooves closer. As I stretch
we catch eyes—mine blue predator;
his, autumn prey.
He stands still for so long he seems
to have forgotten what he’s about
but then takes tentative steps
toward the slop in the bin, begins
to nibble a half mango gone rotten,
dangles a day-old banana peel
from his narrow mouth,
and it retracts like a bruised tongue.
His own tongue is sunset pink as he nudges
a mushy red apple from beneath
the coffee grounds. He grasps it
between front teeth and nods
the way my favorite yellow lab
does with his chewed bone.
Between each deer bite there’s caution
and stillness at the shout of neighbor dogs,
the scatter of lizard feet through dry grass,
the twir of a lost hummingbird—each
a possible danger—and his pauses
remind me of something in myself.
My friend Annie doesn’t like deer and curses
when she spots them in the yard, even the fawns
with their polka dot coats, even after all that
Stafford had to say on the matter.
I can’t help but admire them, though
it’s mostly stags come this side
of the canyon and eat the few veggies
we manage not to burn. This deer—
my new friend, for he looks me over
and does not run—has a filmy white something
I want to rub from the dark path of his eyes
and hedge parsley burs caught between
the turning antennae of his ears.
Minutes pass, and he samples the lettuce—gone to seed
in the neglected raised beds, bitter
probably—and dashes suddenly, disappears
behind scrub oaks. Are we the same,
dear friend, I wonder, as I return to fatten my page
on the detritus of other stolen gardens.