The Deer

I know what you want from me, little deer.
I can see it in the thick knot of your leg, bulging
like a crocus from your sick fur. You know so much
more than I do. You are well-read, educated,
as you chew soft bark from a tree. I turn to you
for advice. What is this mess we have gotten into?
But you are no oracle, and we both know
you would kick fiercely at my handful of sugar.
Your eyes still on me, you hobble across the road,
your fourth leg a crumpled ocean on the air.
I cannot save you, I say. We are divorced; your life
ending in the grass as mine quietly stalls in the sun.
You do not bleed now, but we both know
you will. This is just another day.


Anne’s Sadness

If there is any greatness in this garden,
Diana will have it. I will gobble up this hot morning,
lick the sweat from her arms and mine, give her
the sweet bird’s nest, the soft rose, and I will
pin them to her breast just as the white
blows past with awful, intricate feet, padding
the painful grass, distorting the air around.

She will have it, just as this loss fills with rainwater,
starlight, phlegm, or whatever else slow ghost
remains in this country. There are too many men,
too many giant heads blocking my view of the sun,
but I will dust her dress, tuck her curls behind her ear,
and say good bye as her hand is taken, changed.

I will never change. I will sit at my window and listen
for sounds that will never come, the shifting of her dress
over the fat hills, her young voice echoing the river.


To Write a Letter When There is Too Much to Say

I would like to tell you about the orphanages
and their tight beds that swallowed us completely,
how our prayers went sliding down the cold throat
of a quaking mattress, or how our muscles were so silent,
that only nighttime streets could hear them, but I am
too far from that body now. I sit warm under a mocking
sky. I could tell you about leaving, about sinning,
about swinging little boys from my hip, or what happens
when a man does not receive his afternoon sandwich
in a timely manner, what happens to his penis after he is taken
to drink, but I will not. I cannot complain. I have a home
I can return to. Tell me, did the mouse squeak as it drowned
in the pudding? Would my own cold throat utter a consonant?
I am still the girl in the serving dish, in the glass, in the sunlit
lake that fails to accurately reflect my pallor. I do not even try
to compete with the firs that have stolen my speech,
those snow-filled branches that string out like fake clouds
of wisdom by the window sill. This letter is for the quiet girls,
maybe one blood drop, maybe two to paper, little brain,
you are not as alone as you think while the cat still plays
dangerously close to the fire. For you, I only write
a cluster of birds, a crushed blossom in echoes to home,
and I fear how much I long to hear them say, welcome back,
welcome back.

April Michelle Bratten lives in North Dakota. Her work can be found in Southeast Review, Thrush Poetry Journal, and decomP, among others. She edits Up the Staircase Quarterly (

Photo: Oaks reflected in a puddle, Brimley by Derek Harper ( via Wikimedia Commons.