Your grandfather killed a deer, my grandfather killed a deer
BY CAITLIN SCARANO
You tell me you have good memories of stringing up
a deer with your grandfather.
You were fifteen. You were careful
at skinning it, careful at gutting it. Your little brother
cut too deep, poked a hole in the stomach.
You listened to the gas
escape. You know about the men
we each come from, pronged, bloodshot
legacies, how we learned who to be
and who not to be. My grandfather was a hunter
too but a different breed. Helped his wife kill her
first buck. Tried to lock his second daughter away,
trapped his granddaughters in a bathroom
with a clawfoot tub. Violence I locked shut
like an ammunition box when I left home
at seventeen. You gut it in the field, you say,
not the shop. A place for every act.
Could I have known you before all this? Familiar,
your voice. Your mouth on my wrist.
Familiar, my body curled against
yours. Mollusk shell, keeping
the soft parts in. You never asked
too much of me. On one of our last
walks together, it is night. You pass under
lamplight like water, a few feet out of reach. There,
beside the sidewalk, a doe and her yearling.
So close, I can see the clouds of their breath
hanging in the air. Back then, you hung the meat
in strips to cure. Your family ate it and you ate it,
became strong, became the man I know now
fifteen years later, careful at being gentle,
careful. You remember the shot
at a decent buck, the shot you didn’t take
because you’d lost sight of them,
your brother and grandfather. What we decide
not to do. The families we have,
the ones we’ll choose. Sons I saw when you showed
me pictures of you as a boy. Your face, my face,
how it all ran together. The person you’ll love
after me, like an animal you’ve always been
closing in on and I will be alone in a clearing,
putting my body back together, unstripped, ungutted,
unskinned. The urban deer we find do not startle.
They just walk away. The feet and trimmings we fed
to Grandpa’s German shepherd, you said.
The one he taught you not to turn
your back on. How he loved