THE WHITMAN ISSUE
THE DEER LONGING
The deer longing to write this poem for you
Has been standing longer than a man can imagine
Or even come close to
At the marshy edge of the field
Where the willow sprays its branches upward
And lets them down
Like rain arrested over the moving water.
New leaves are nesting high in the tulip poplars
And something in the air like the idea of kindness
Has lighted in the antlers of the deer.
But you know he will never begin to finish this poem,
You know he will never carry a deadly weapon,
Will never find his flat right hand
Scalding the face of anybody's loveliness,
So come with your hands dropped by your sides and open,
With your hair like the willow leaves reaching for water,
Come with small breasts or full breasts or no breasts at all,
Come with rippling thighs,
With legs that will never have to run unless they want to
.................go loping down the long hill,
Come bearing genitals quick and harmless as the least garter snake
Or the snug pockets of moss among the stones,
And he will let you stand a good distance from him
Whether he is there or far from there.
Gibbons Ruark was born in Raleigh, NC, in 1941, and holds degrees from the Universities of North Carolina and Massachusetts. His poems have appeared widely for nearly 40 years in magazines such as The New Republic, The New Yorker, and Poetry, and in various anthologies and texts. They have also won the poet frequent awards, including three Poetry Fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and a Pushcart Prize. Previously collected in A Program for Survival, Reeds, Keeping Company, and Rescue the Perishing, 70 of them appear in Passing Through Customs: New and Selected Poems (Louisiana State University Press, 1999). Ruark, who has taught English at the University of Delaware since 1968, lives with his wife Kay in Landenberg, PA.