Deer by Helen Mort

This poem was written by the poet-in-residence at Dove Cottage (Wordsworth’s old house). I hated Wordsworth at high school (I have since discovered he’s not so bad – I think it was my teacher’s fault), but this poem I love. I also love that you can be a poet-in-residence at Dove Cottage. I find this wildly romantic. I also find Dove Cottage wildly romantic. I like things that are wildly romantic. I would like to think my travels will be wildly romantic. I also plan to visit Dove Cottage sometime in the next year or two, so this is completely relevant to this blog. Totally.

The deer my mother swears to God we never saw,
the ones who stepped between the trees
on pound-coin coloured hooves,
I brought them up each teatime in the holidays

and they were brighter every time I did;
more supple than the otters that we waited for
at Ullapool, more graceful than the kingfisher
that darned the river south of Rannoch Moor.

Then five years on, in the same house, I rose
for water in the middle of the night and watched
my mother at the window, looking out
to where the forest lapped the garden’s edge.

From where she stood, I saw them stealing
through the pines, and they must have been closer
than before, because I have no memory
of those fish-bone ribs, that ragged fur

their eyes, like hers, that flickered back
towards whatever followed them.


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