How the Young Buck Rose Above the Mountain

Deer Skull with Pedernal, Georgia O’Keefe, 1943, oil on canvas

Nourished by hide and marrow

a tree sprouted beneath him

rose crooked between his ribs

branched through his nostrils and pulled

the young buck up from the earth

let each vertebrae tumble

down its twisting veins of bark.

Hooves landed with a patter

on spring grass; each tibia

cracked the other as they fell.

When only his head remained

perched on slate-gray branches,

the vultures’ sickle beaks came

to pick him clean, rake his bone.

On his temples, he wore two

gems of the blue ombre sky.

On his head, he wore sun-flushed

antlers like a blushing crown.


Jacqui Zeng is an MFA candidate at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale.