Iceland

From the parking lot of Kortright Park we watch
as three white-tailed deer cross the dead tall grass.
Grass bristles up, like the ochre buzzcut
of my grandfather’s shaving brush, who told me,
when Grandma left the room, that the best
time of his life was the War.
I have a picture of him in Iceland, drunk, as two
soldiers prop him up against the car,
laughing their laughter into silver mist.
“What do they eat in the winter?” you wonder aloud,
looking at the deer through the glass.
The man made me laugh, but I’ve lost his voice.
When I was a boy, no one mentioned he was a drunk.
By then, I don’t think he took photographs, anymore,
though there are boxes of them stuffed with the war,
in the food cellar, “next to the pickled eggs,”
my Grandmother shouts from the top of the stairs.
“Sometimes, it’s hard to tell,” you say, unselfconsciously
as a child, “whether we ought to be hungry, or thirsty.”
We watch as our breaths begin to fill in the picture of
the windshield’s white-tailed deer. We are quiet.
Our shoulders, slow, never quite rise or fall,
as if stilled by a sound quieter than air.
I think of cave paintings left by ancient hunters,
thoughts of buds on alderbanks of frozen creeks
and deer vanishing into the islands they breathe.

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