2 Poems by Evelyn Deshane

The Caribou

When I was young, I saw a herd

of caribou in a sliver of light when winter was

melting away & becoming something else.

The caribou & their hooves gnashed against rock;

their teeth chewed thick tundra grasses while their

antlers peeled away, red and ragged.

They molted. They shed. They bled.

“The female caribou have antlers,” my uncle said,

“just like the men.” & I understood though I was 9

& the moon had only shifted inside of me once.

Their molts were my molts. The caribou women bled

& were made strong.

Years later, I live in the North in my uncle’s old

cabin with new furniture & better sewage system.

I get down on the ground, & thank the tundra

with tea made from raspberry leaves to ease

the pain of contractions

from the molting of my inner antler

at least once a month.

(19 lines)

Teaching English as a Second Language

When we speak, there is

a remainder of sound left inside the air;

vibrations of particles that human ears

do not pick up. There is also the word we don’t

and can’t pronounce. An accent of missing articles

the & in & a & with forgotten about,

the typo that becomes lodged in the throat

the st-t-t-t from a stutter, a trill & a nasal sound

from our nose. But there is also a remainder

of language in a joke we missed. An idiom

without culture, a reference gone among vowels

meanings lost in translation or just

misheard. Misunderstood. The un-

of that language intrigues me. The underside

of our understanding, what slips through our cracks

of perception. It’s like walking on glass:

if you step on enough, you can glide over it;

unlanguage does not hurt you all at once.

But in the small pin pricks, the lone shard

& jagged edge of a missed meaning. I love

you and I miss you subsumed inside a vortex.

A compliment & a furious text message

gone, and not recovered. In silence

(which is never really quiet), I wonder how many

remainders I can find at the bottom of the floor.

I step quietly around others’ conversations

hoping to find some meaning lost

& to repurpose it for myself. But I am left

with accents, articles, and unheard sentiments.

A gift basket, a mirrored edge, a dangling

modifier, and my slap-dash poem. Alas

I guess,

this is it.

(33 lines)

Justin’s Note: This pair of poems just seems to go together, in a strange ethereal way. Humanity and language always go together in my mind like that, and if The Caribou isn’t a stunning celebration of humanity I don’t know what is. It’s frank and to the point, and that’s why I love it. Humanity and language. Yin and yang. Let’s all celebrate humanity and language.

Bio: Evelyn Deshane has appeared in Plenitude Magazine, Strange Horizons, The Rusty Toque, and Lackington’s. Their chapbook, Mythology, was released in 2015 with The Steel Chisel. Evelyn (pron. Eve-a-lyn) received an MA from Trent University and currently studying for PhD at Waterloo University. Visit them at: evedeshane.wordpress.com


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