A Small, Soul-Colored Thing

Written by  Paisley Rekdal

--previously published in Animal Eye

The dog walked out of the forest with the deer in its mouth.
No. The deer came out of the forest. The dog
ran beside it, over, under: the dog slipped itself
into the animal lurching to my side of the road,
one of its throats bent back to the sky,
one of its spines dissolved to pear-white belly.
The throat was red. And the long legs looked broken.
But I made a mistake. The legs were not broken.
And the deer did not appear dead, though it must have been,
animated by the dog's hunger so that the deer moved
when the dog did, shivered like the soul inside the body,
the dog's face all red, which could be the color of the soul.
The back of the dog was sleek and brown
and expensive-looking. When I stared at him,
I could see the lawns he must have escaped from,
the gravel drive winding down from the hills in the gold tags
jangling at his chest; the clean, pink flaps of his ears
flushed with cold. Now they were froth-covered.
And his eyes were glazed with a furious longing.
The dog tore at the deer's throat as if he could dig
himself inside of it. The dog became a dog
again, and I watched him do it, and the deer became
something else: it left the soft ash shape of the doe
grazing by the bus stop, it abandoned
the buck's bright energy leaping over the stone wall
that separates my house from the cemetery,
its low border taut as a muscle that herds of deer trace
in moonlight, cast out of the canyons choked with snow.
The deer became some shadow torn between us:
beneath it, the beautiful legs, the elegant ribs
twisted into the road. I stopped and watched
this wrestling, the dog half deer, the deer
half dog, myself poised behind them
so as to remain invisible, though a low,
slow growl loosed itself at my approach.
It entered the deer and reverberated there
until its fur grew long and thickened,
and its face took on the shape of a lion,
a wolf, a bear. It became the shape of a mouth
tearing and tearing as I watched it, wanting
to take my share of it, kneeling at the walk
and putting my mouth to the flesh, letting
fur and blood both coat my tongue, while my hands
reached into the stomach to rip and empty it.
I wanted to loose my gray hair out
upon my shoulders, to feel antlers grow
from bone, letting my own heart be pierced
until the soft pulse shivered in the skin. No.
The dog tore at the deer's throat. And I watched it.
I was the human that could watch it. I was the small,
soul-colored thing that wouldn't change.
The deer trembled and lay still.
It grew slack in the deepening snow.
The road disappeared and the sky turned white.
The snow piled up. It kept on falling.

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