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The Dead Deer on the Side of the Road

  • When I see a dead deer on the side of Rte. 17 West,
  • its hind legs pointing up to the sky stiff as sticks,
  • its body crumpled and still,
  • I think of you in the ER cubicle at Valley Hospital,
  • your eyes blank and staring, your body motionless.
  • The doctor says, “He’s gone,” and closes your eyes.
  • When I see that dead deer, the way life is gone from it,
  • I cry for you and for the deer and for all the other creatures
  • lost. I talk to you, as though you were actually in the car
  • with me and could help me carry the cup of grief
  • that I try to balance in my hands.
  • Too much death surrounds me now, my dead, my mother,
  • father, sister, best friends of forty years, all gone
  • and I mourn for them all, but you who were with me
  • for forty-six years, you are the one I am afraid to grieve for,
  • afraid that I will never fill the space your dying leaves. I pretend
  • to myself that you are still with me in our family room just as I do
  • in this car. It is only when I cry for the deer I am able
  • to cry for you. “I love you,” you said, the day before you died.
  • When I came into the room you turned to me with a smile
  • that filled your face with light. I will carry that smile
  • in my memory as a talisman, a worry stone that I can hold
  • and touch when I am most alone, most afraid.

Maria Mazziotti Gillan is a recipient of the 2014 George Garrett Award for Outstanding Community Service in Literature, the 2011 Barnes & Noble Writers for Writers Award from Poets & Writers, and the 2008 American Book Award for her collection All That Lies Between Us (Guernica Editions). She is the founder/executive director of the Poetry Center at Passaic County Community College in Paterson, NJ, and editor of the Paterson Literary Review. She is also director of the Binghamton Center for Writers and the creative-writing program, and professor of poetry at Binghamton University-SUNY. She has published 18 books and with her daughter Jennifer, she is co-editor of four anthologies. Her website is mariagillan.com.

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  • When I see a dead deer on the side of Rte. 17 West,
  • its hind legs pointing up to the sky stiff as sticks,
  • its body crumpled and still,
  • I think of you in the ER cubicle at Valley Hospital,
  • your eyes blank and staring, your body motionless.
  • The doctor says, “He’s gone,” and closes your eyes.
  • When I see that dead deer, the way life is gone from it,
  • I cry for you and for the deer and for all the other creatures
  • lost. I talk to you, as though you were actually in the car
  • with me and could help me carry the cup of grief
  • that I try to balance in my hands.
  • Too much death surrounds me now, my dead, my mother,
  • father, sister, best friends of forty years, all gone
  • and I mourn for them all, but you who were with me
  • for forty-six years, you are the one I am afraid to grieve for,
  • afraid that I will never fill the space your dying leaves. I pretend
  • to myself that you are still with me in our family room just as I do
  • in this car. It is only when I cry for the deer I am able
  • to cry for you. “I love you,” you said, the day before you died.
  • When I came into the room you turned to me with a smile
  • that filled your face with light. I will carry that smile
  • in my memory as a talisman, a worry stone that I can hold
  • and touch when I am most alone, most afraid.

Maria Mazziotti Gillan is a recipient of the 2014 George Garrett Award for Outstanding Community Service in Literature, the 2011 Barnes & Noble Writers for Writers Award from Poets & Writers, and the 2008 American Book Award for her collection All That Lies Between Us (Guernica Editions). She is the founder/executive director of the Poetry Center at Passaic County Community College in Paterson, NJ, and editor of the Paterson Literary Review. She is also director of the Binghamton Center for Writers and the creative-writing program, and professor of poetry at Binghamton University-SUNY. She has published 18 books and with her daughter Jennifer, she is co-editor of four anthologies. Her website is mariagillan.com.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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