Original poem reprinted online here: "Fled" by Lisa Ampleman
Originally read: May 1, 2013
More information about the Poet: Lisa Ampleman
Deer in this poem carries a lot of weight. I don't know if the weight is intended for the poem or it's me adding that extra baggage to the poem. What I mean is that there's a lot of allusions to deer in other poems like "Traveling Through The Dark" by William Stafford, Tang Dynasty poets, Kobayashi Issa, some poems probably by Hass and Snyder and Kumin -- some I don't remember the titles of (as you can tell) but I do remember how "sacred" the image is if the image is central.
But the image is not as central as the previous ones -- mind you the image of the deer is quite important, but the image is used as a direct parallel metaphor and what the focus of the poem is, then, a relationship.
The speaker establishes a more contemporary feel with the first stanza referring to "reception" for a cell phone. Furthermore, reception isn't double sided, but rather very direct to listen to "voice / mail, terse, all business." And during this hike there's "the oil - / painting deer." And here is what sets the deer image apart from the ones that have been burned (fortunately or unfortunately) into my mind. The adjective. Seems simple, but for an image dependent poem (at least for the first part) adjectives have a huge sway on the direction the poem will take.
This is why I find oil-painting deer to be a descriptor that may be referential, but also focus on the artifice as well. The adjective is signaling to the reader that the deer is a prop for some deeper issue. So when the speaker continues the scene also becomes more artificial -- look at the description, "The sun radiating / off the road, the trees / distant havens of shade." The description is dream-like, but also note the usage of "shade" in the line as a reference to deep-image (perhaps) which uses the image more genuinely. So, I do feel the image of the deer is a "riff" but not in the disrespectful way -- well maybe.
The deconstruction of the deer in the second stanza takes away the dream-like quality of the to more of an abrupt metaphor. First the disillusionment of the physical, "Legs bony as a greyhound." Usually, I'm not into the simile comparing one animal to another, but I think this is the point -- breaking the connections. Then there's the automatic gender of she and then the placement of the ideal situation, "she could have the woods." Inserting a simile into another, inserting a dream within a dream-like state becomes so convoluted that the now, the real, will trample over this ideal, "I shifted, / and she disappeared."
The third stanza reintroduces the "you" as the speaker takes on the quality of the deer. The you, "would've been / the guns cracking in / the woods." And here I'm iffy about. Sure the beginning has the you as distant, but then the you transforms into the hunter image -- it's two different modes. And so the ending, "I'd heard that week / but never seen" fits with the auditory "real" and the visual "dream," but comes off a bit, one sided.
I get that along the way the adjusted lines are trying to force a wedge between the speaker and the you, and also, since the poem is in first person, the focus is on the speaker's point of view, and not showing the "you." However, the dream-like image (general) is followed with dream-like image (you) with the genuine speaker interpreting the before, the now, and the meaning of the deer as a lone victim running away from imagined bullets.