Temporal Season

Caught between wanting and acting. Between language and landscape.

—Rosmarie Waldrop


In the months when I was at my lowest. There was a deer. I carried the skull to the field.
I found the rest. Of the body. Bleached by sun. The bones were like brittle rocks. Your
forehead was translucent. Showing your blue veins. When I ran my fingers over the sky. Of you.
Is it because you have always. Seemed much older. That I have loved you. The buzzards bled.
The animal for a week. The body gives over. Easily then. A milky sky to the south. You
could not give me. What I wanted. So I turned to the deer. Wound of sifted light. Any slight
rustling in the trees. To reach out and touch a living one. Would bring sickness to the body.
The eyes are the only. Organs of pure longing. The ivy is red. And dying in the dusk. The bird
that hit my windshield left. A bird-shaped print. On the other side of the glass. It was cold.


No one is here. A casket of branches. You said I walk like my mother. Hips swung forward.
She will no longer. Have a mother. Soon. And so my love. Dwindles. Where it should expand.
Pure delinquent. The maple wraps red. Around the power line. When the woods has lost.
Its color. The girl that caught on fire in the farmhouse. Never left this land on her own. Once she
bed down. In the clover like a deer. The matted hairs disintegrate. Eventually. The spirit insists
on wind. The weeds overtaking what were fields of every kind. Of edible plant. We touched
every partial eclipse of flower. In our mouths. Touched each other.
The seasons are all the same. One cycle. Of want. Please try to tell me. Otherwise.


In 2016 the first instance of a conjoined deer was found. By a mushroom hunter in a patch
of woods. By the Mississippi River. Born still. Not of the world but in it. All the same. The body
was patterned with a full coat. Of spots. No mother was there when they arrived. The body
appeared to have been recently groomed.


How two people create distance only to be the glistening bridge. Between their happiness
and pain. Is a loneliness I have known. Though it too gives me purpose. I would rather be
in the woods. Alone and not alongside you. At least there the mystery remains. Nature moves
in its own patterns. The birds will startle me awake. I might see. A feral cat with a striking black
and white face. Or a bone bitten. Not there the day before.


An animal killed another. Animal on the documentary. It seemed so passive to idly watch.
When I was a child. My mother would say. The great circle. Of life. When a neighbor's dog
clenched. Its teeth around a rabbit in the backyard. An inheritance of sound. My mind forms
the words. Whether or not I want them. Now I pass animals killed in the night. On the highway
stretching. Like bell ropes pulled loose. On the way to the cemetery trail. Where I pretend
to know how to talk to deer. Each day the flesh slackens. Is creased and torn by packed earth.
Eventually none remains. Much like the tree that falls. Silently. On its own. I cannot tell you.
How the earth wishes to be known. Except to say. Mushrooms tend to make a living. In the cracks.


You used to call the way time slows in the summer. A word so familiar. It has lost its meaning.
I believe in two worlds. At once. The one in which my spirit deepens. Like a river after rain.
And the one in which I grow older. Sifted by odd images. That glimmer across. My mind.
Without purpose.


Words don't stretch across the body. Like the slice of sun on my thigh. Other features aside
I have always had beautiful legs. From running uphill over old roots. Looking down so not
to fall. I know well the bruises of the hard fall into earth. The dust from all matter. Of life
accumulated there. Blood mixed with dirt in the cracks. In the skin. I listen to vibrations
in the throats of poets across time and technology. Filtered through headphones I wrap around
my wrist. Interrupting. The cardinal the deer the tractor trailer on the slick road above. Their
voices turn when it is time to recite their words. For the heaviness of language to tear down.
The branches of tenderness. To reach between a terrible distance. And the dark place where it all
started. What do I feel like to the black snake I pass on a warm afternoon. When the weather
should have already turned for the worse. My own breath scares the shit out of me. When the rest
of the world seems quiet.


All this time. Have I been an intelligence without a form. Not worth blanketing with the powder
of cochineal beetles. Soft-bodied and crushed red into blush. What cheekbones do deserve. Such
color. Still I consume words like a killing cone. Blocking the animal from its fate. In the midst
of love I am bored of the body. Unless you are speaking. The scene into existence. Speaking me
into being.


It is not so much that I have given up my faith. Or my belief in the mystery of the objects which
surround us. But there is a gap where it once was. Beating. No less physical than the breath.
Which makes space in the lungs then flattens. Ongoing until the expanse widens. Around
the body. The cycle keeps me tethered. To the landscape. When I pray now. It sounds like air.


There is no possibility that the hunters. Will mistake you for a deer. You say as I watch the light
pluck your hair. Until the first of the year. It is deer season. Past archery. Blackpowder.
The number of deer allotted to each hunter per season is six. According to the 2019 Census
Bureau there are 35,174. Men in this county. I appear through the perforated light. Of the woods.
As I work my hips in a familiar pulse. Once the shots seemed so close. I heard a sound pierce
the scratching of beak. And the tremble of hoof. It was my voice yelling. Person. Person. Person.

Nicole Stockburger is the author of Nowhere Beulah (Unicorn Press, 2019). Her poems and visual pieces have appeared, or will appear soon, in Kenyon Review, The Southern Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, Two Peach, Prairie Schooner, and elsewhere. She received an MFA in Creative Writing from The University of North Carolina at Greensboro and a BA in Studio Art and English from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she studied darkroom photography. Her work has been supported by the Hambidge Center for the Creative Arts & Sciences. Nicole lives just up the hill from her iconically hyphenated hometown, Winston-Salem.