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i don’t write about killing deer
because the closest i’ve ever come to it
is with my car swerving
& i think the rest of you are dishonest. my cousin
dropped a hundred & ten hits of acid
on a road trip to california once. he climbed a foreign mountain
to see the sunrise over a desert foreign to him
along the way. of course he was still on acid
at that point, but also searching
for water. he still sees deer at night
darting from the corner of his eyes
while driving. he does not write poems. he stops
the heartbeat of deer
with his hands & mouth. he cries for his father with his arms
every time i see him. when his father lost the ability to use his hands
& legs, my cousin lined up a rifle
& a deer salt lick, about twenty yards apart.
all his dad would have to do is nudge
the gun from the porch. my great uncle pitched
for the yankees. he also killed deer.
he never wrote a single poem
& i will always love him for it. my cousin wanted
to write a book about his dad. he wanted the first chapter to end
on the day he slipped on a wet step
& broke his neck while golfing, instead, my dad took me hunting once
on the land next to a different uncle’s home.
we saw a deer in the meadow.
he took the gun. he aimed it himself.
he missed. it was so goddamn cold that day. a man
came running out shouting you on tha docta’s property, sir. we scurried
off through the thicket we first entered,
but this time with no caution & i cut up my hands trying
to protect my face. i missed
because i didn’t want to deal with cutting up that deer
& cleaning it & dragging it back to jimmy’s, my dad said.
this was one of the times my dad tried
to protect me from the world. that day we did not
reach into the chest of a life we ended.
we did not have to put anything out of its misery.
nothing ached, but our hands from the cold
& thorns. my cousin wrote
his master’s thesis on why people in west virginia are so fat.
he says it’s because by-and-large west virginian’s don’t have enough
money to buy good food. my grandma
had no way of knowing her brother couldn’t be a yankee forever. one day
he grabbed a knife the wrong way at a picnic
& he couldn’t throw the next. one day
he was either finishing up or about to play a round of golf,
of this fact i’ve never been sure,
& then he slipped on a wet step.
Keegan Lester’s first collection of poetry, this shouldn’t be beautiful but it was & it was all i had so i drew it, was selected by Mary Ruefle for the 2016 Slope Editions Book Prize and will be out in February 2017. He is the poetry editor and cofounder of the journal Souvenir Lit. He has taught writing workshops in Morgantown, West Virginia, and mentors young writers across the United States. To order his book, find tour dates, and other goodies, check out his website, www.keeganlester.com.
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