My grandmother only calls me to complain about deer
and their incomplete bodies. Her backyard gutters with fog,

so they bother her piecemeal. On monday she finds antlers
stitched into moss and forsythia. Or on thursday, two tongue-tails
bound at the quick. She spends my birthday tallying hoofprints

and occasional hooves. She cajoles me to return and collect them.
I used to clean her yard of remnants, slotting femurs and calves
into a bucket, so they wouldn’t decompose near her zucchini.

She saved each piece on hooks in her basement. She was trying,
I think, to build her own framework of a deer. I’d avoid

the skins lolling on her coffee table, hanging from her freezer,
inside each of her nesting dolls. Maybe she just hoards bodies

in case they answer her wishes. I can understand that.
I wished, once. I swirled a pile of wrist bones like a prospector
and begged, and they gave me the piecemeal skeleton

of all I ever wanted. Twin tails in her zucchini, eyes in her forsythia.
Liminal. I wished the deer to live forever—not for mercy,
not for my grandmother’s torment. Only to hoard her remnants

when she calls on my birthday to complain about deer.
If I equivocate enough, she may build me in her basement,

while I escape to the woods, again. Still somehow comforted
that she wishes to make a grandchild out of me.

Image: Photo by jessamyn duckwall, 2022.