I didn't hunt that weekend.
I stayed home with the girls and rolled cookie dough.
My father came back with a deer blasted from the woods
and tied to the roof of his Chevelle like a Christmas tree.
The neighborhood men rushed over to gauge
the size of his kill. Most of their homes
have something dead hanging on the walls.
They carried the deer on their shoulders in victory
and hung it by the rear hooves from the backyard elm.
They circled. Arms crossed in judgment.
"What a beaut," they said. "What a rack," they said,
caressing the antlers and petting the pelt as if it were alive
and obedient at the foot of their armchair.
They slit the animal from throat to crotch.
Blood emptied with a rush.
Intestines unwound to the ground.
He plunged his arm deep into the animal, pulled out
the liver still warm and full of bile. "We can eat that.
The other guts can be used as fertilizer."
They took turns pulling off the skin
--stripped from the animal like contact paper--
and carved the meat into chunks.
After the deer had been packaged and frozen, and the organs
decomposed in the garden--I once again protested, "I am not eating
that deer," as brown meat and onions were spooned onto my plate.
"It's steak," he grumbled, grabbing himself a heaping helping.
Over dessert he announced with a sly smirk, "You just ate deer."
I left the table and vomited in the garden.
Next year's tomatoes will be nourished by bile and shame.
They'll have a deep blush.
They'll be irresistible to pluck.
And gulp down like a man.
poem and photo copyright Robert P. Langdon