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.
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
this is it.
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