"Interview with a Cervidologist" by Caroline Harper New

Technically, they are ungulates—
tender in-between the split hoof.

Their insides are torn
into chambers. Things grown
and digested in the dark.

Ever seen a deer eat a baby bird?
Feathers and all. They hunt
them down and strike
with hooves.

There’s a natural order: Ungulate.
Ruminant. Cervid. Antlers

are just vascular velvet
that swells, turns mineral,
dies. Deer don’t have to

break them off each year,
but you’d be surprised
how many creatures
choose desire.

We’ve done experiments

to stop deer from throwing their bodies
in front of cars. Do they really?

We lined the road with lights
to warn them. And it worked?

When it didn’t, we covered them
with white sheets. The deer? The sheets

kept the deer away. Some strange
accident. You know, water deer

have fangs instead of antlers.
Even the women. But do they really

kill? It’s all an art, this mounting
on the wall. Counting

our own small sins grown
in the dark. Like I said,

the deer threw their bodies
in front of me. Life

is no longer based on ability
to live outside the womb.

Life is now an object
of state protection. We track deer

according to the rose petal theory,
which means daughters

follow their mothers
in pink furrows, unfolding

in ways that can be violent. Homicide

begins with the heartbeat,
but do the mothers really kill

themselves? Let me ask
what you think of your own

thicket. How it holds the meadow
closed. Hides the precious
and dappled. There’s a natural order.

Undulate. Cervix. I told you

we’re more interested in wolves—
Freud was onto something

when he compared the deer stand
to a womb. A quiet muzzle pointed
from the inside out.

This poem references the Georgia House Bill 48, also known as the “Heartbeat Bill,” which was passed in the US state of Georgia’s General Assembly in 2019. This bill made abortion illegal after six weeks of pregnancy, except in cases of emergency, rape, or incest, which were made illegal after twenty weeks.




From The Malahat Review's spring issue #222