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Watching Deer Neighbors, A Poem by Dorey Schmidt

To ancient Mayans, deer were angels.
heavensent, with winglike ears,
eyes liquid and shining as molten lava.
Like God's messengers
deer led people to water,
laid down lives providing food.
Silent and peaceful in the forest,
deer passed in and out of view.
At Chichen Itza, tumbled stones
mark temple sites where
priests offered praises
for the love of deer.

We Texans living in the midst of deer,
sometimes never see them,
but, hunter-trained from childhood,
my eyes find even the hidden-
or ones who think they're hiding-
like the doe who lay down
one day behind a great agave
backed up against my fence.
From the road no one could see her
but wide-eyed I watched
as openwire mesh revealed
a clear view of what she sought
to conceal: the birth of twin fawns.

Suburban dwellers
find herds in the 'hood
too familiar, brazenly grazing
right up to front doors,
lazily moving from an auto's path
or standing gracefully on nibbled lawns
as though invited to dinner.
The tables are turned now-
venison is seldom on the menu-
deer do not provide our food,
but they feast in plain view
on the bounty of our flowers, grass and shrubs.

Mornings as I walk, deer stand
watchful in the light of the newborn sun,
eyes steady, slender legs ready to run
but holding still, staring from bright
almond eyes. Once four bucks
posed like pictures in my yard,
heads held high and noble antlers
still in velvet haloed in the light.
Would that all my other neighbors
were as dear as the deer,
who watch me without fear,
ready to be my food or visual feast.

Dorey Schmidt, 1999

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