The Night Your Mother

              after Austin Smith
finds the lump under her breast
you name every deer –
a town of boys who built fires from
bird bones & dirt under their nails.
Stopping for gas, you predict their futures:
half DJs, half accountants, a small percent
who cure cancer. By the reservoir
you watch as one hands out cigarettes
from behind his antlers, hear him tell the story
about a mother from the city
who drowned her newborn in the lake,
how the herd just stared like falling asleep in church.
You think back to your mother –
rifle across her lap like the wishbone of a bear,
remember how you have never held a gun.
Now another deer talks of body,
a ghost that takes years to shoot down
& fill with clay, a bird trapped in a hardware store
that sleeps on the bandsaw at night.
By morning the deer are getting rowdy
& someone decides to tip over birdfeeders.
Leaving, you finish your cigarette,
lungs filling & emptying like a boy
opening comics & tearing out pages.
You cross one more field & see a doe
painted white, realize this is the work of the boys.
Walking over like a cloud leaving orbit,
she blinks for years & asks to be fed.
You clean the paint from her blaze.
You have never held a gun.

Tyler Kline is the author of the forthcoming chapbook As Men Do Around Knives (ELJ Publications, 2016). His recent work is forthcoming in BOAAT, the minnesota review, Spoon River Poetry Review, THRUSH, and Whiskey Island. He is a senior at the University of Delaware and the current Poet Laureate of Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Find him online at