Driving to Doug and Hilary’s Cabin in Northern Wisconsin

At dusk the deer appear on the highway shoulder,
more of them as the light continues to die.
Suddenly they simply are,
bare brown outlines, hesitant. I am
to scan for movement, eye-shine; my husband,
to brake when I say deer. If I say deer
are the world at dusk, barred owls — if antlers
are trees in silhouette; if as the light goes down
we are coming out of our hiding places, on the move
to night feeding grounds, hunted, haunted,
should I say I see these things,
even if I cannot name the pine
the deer walk among, could not track
their hoof prints to the river. If the ribbon
my life moves along is thin: diner,
asphalt. The poem is older than
ochre, sienna horses inked on stone,
older than my body, can I say it?
The deer are the world at dusk.
My body cannot help but remember.
The deer cannot help bolting into the road
in front of our car. They cannot help walking
with the name we gave them,
which once did not mean deer
but any untamed thing that breathes
and traces back to the Sanskrit for he perishes.

Katrina Vandenberg is the author of two books of poems, Atlas and The Alphabet Not Unlike the World (forthcoming, 2012). She lives in Saint Paul, Minnesota.