Lynne Knight

Deer in BerkeleyDeer in Berkeley

Sow’s Ear (2004)
Winner of the 2003 Sow’s Ear Poetry Chapbook Competition


Untimely Snow

I walk into the woods where snow
falls so quietly I feel myself enclosed
inside a snow-filled globe, souvenir
containing oaks already frozen and deer
feeding on red berries I can’t name
because I have forgotten everything
in this untimely snow that falls over me,
the oaks, and deer; even if I shout loud
to see if the deer will stir, I won’t know
if it’s the world I’m lost in or the scene
made in miniature to resemble the world
so that someone longing for the time
when walking through snowy woods
meant walking through snowy woods—
not an attempt to numb the heart’s pain
or escape the small betrayals of the day—
someone longing for that time can take
the souvenir in hand and say, Look,
this is just like the woods I used to walk in
when I was a kid
, then stare past the listener
remembering other woods, other snow,
other pain and betrayal following
while the actual snow goes on falling
so fast now that even the names
on the stones in the old graveyard
beyond the red berries the deer still
feed on—how one thing slips into another—
even the names disappear under snow.

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Resuming Quiet

Hand on the door—gesture of escape
like that—she waits like someone in
a superstition, then shakes her head, turns
to him and says, If everything on earth
is sacred, you’ll have to spend eternities
, a speech slightly ruined
in its effects by seeming rehearsed,
but he would have yawned, anyway,
affected some insouciance just to prove
this parting would not wreck his heart.
Outside—each looks, as if to authenticate
their words with time and place—
two deer move down the bank, feeding
on new acanthus. They themselves dislike
acanthus, he because his ex-wife planted it,
she because his ex-wife planted it, so
they speak with restraint, not wanting
to scare the deer off. Years before,
in this same room, they had sworn
not to make the same mistakes again.
How young they seemed in their promises!
I wish, she says now, I wish we’d taken
vows. It would gratify me, to break them
like plates. Like windows. Maybe some night
I’ll come back and break all the windows,
let you wake to ruin, see how you like it.

He waits for the melodrama to pass.
It passes. They both feel grief, yes,
and for months afterwards, but nothing
keen, nothing that much beyond
the ordinary. They see each other from
time to time—the theatre, hauling
groceries from the Bowl—and they seem
startled, then relieved, like the deer looking up
when the door finally opened,
heads dipping back as quiet resumed.


Lynne Knight | The Language of Forgetting   Lynne Knight | The Persistence of Longing   Lynne Knight | Again   Lynne Knight | Night in the Shape of a Mirror   Lynne Knight | The Book of Common Betrayals   Lynne Knight | Dissolving Borders   Lynne Knight | Snow Effects/Effets de Neige   Lynne Knight | Defying the Flat Surface   Lynne Knight | Deer in Berkeley   I Know (Je sais) | Translated by Lynne Knight with the author Ito Naga