I was privileged this spring to receive publication in New Millennium Writings, one of my favorite literary journals. My poem “Robot Deer Shot 1,000 Times” won an honorable mention in their Winter 2011-12 contest. The winners of the shared first prize included my dear friend Ellen LaFleche. Read more poetry from the current issue here. (“Robot Deer” is on page 146 of the issue, page 28 of the PDF.) The current contest, with prizes of $1,000 for poetry, fiction, flash fiction, and essays, is open through June 17; this deadline is typically extended to July 31.
This poem was inspired by one of those “News of the Weird” wire stories about a mechanical deer that cops deployed to trap poachers. The hunter’s backstory, however, simply emerged on its own as soon as I put pencil to page. You never know what your imaginary friends will tell you over a few drinks.
Robot Deer Shot 1,000 Times
Some buckshot-toting boys can’t resist
that hat-rack head lofting into view
in the sweep of the pickup’s dusty headlights,
a come-on like the barmaid’s at the Blue Note
when she slaps your hand but you know she means maybe
by how her tail switches away.
It’s poaching to shoot from the road
at night, one of those rules
on the same page as don’t drink with a married woman
or drive a locked van to Mexico,
even if your brother asks.
Maybe the barmaid can tell a pro tattoo
from the tic-tac-cross your cellie carved with a pen filler.
But you believe the buck is real
and that its brown eyes, glassy
with trust, are the worn-down night’s gift to you,
even when you shoot and shoot but it won’t fall,
clicking its proud head slowly round
like the barmaid’s heels when she glides
her tray of foaming mugs over to the college boys.
Then the Staties roll up with their toy-car lights
joking Bambi sure can take a beating,
amd cuffed on the hood you’re forced into a close-up
of the felted frame, pocked with pellets,
and it looks like your brother’s skin after the last radiation.
Tomorrow you’ll be more of a fool
at the Blue Note than you were today,
not because of the deer but the white envelopes
the cops found stuffed in your glove compartment
with poems inked on them, that some joker will shout out
during a lull in the jukebox,
and you’ll think the barmaid, brown eyes soft, is listening.