by JE Baker

The doe is dead, devoured by hounds.
Her bones lie by the river’s edge.
Curled small,
small is never long;
her body will grow and cast away the brush that veils her.
Her fair spots will fade with time.
It’s the sparrows that call her to run,
to stretch her legs long and flee.
But the fawn, she listens to the leaves
whispering that it is safe to stay.

I stood at the sink
scratching and scraping until fingertips were bloodied and sore.
As the water ran I thought,
her spine curved like the back of my ear –
her heart in a box.

It’s easy for the leaves to die.
The mantle of dirt shows the way.
Head south,
toward the river;
blood smothers the earth where half-eaten bones are still strewn.
Ash-covered tracks form a trail.
The Huntsman keeps her heart in a box,
to take to his aging Queen.
But from there an iris still watches,
warning her daughter never to stay.

The water was hot
and the steam held a stench like a scream at the back of the throat.
My eyes burned, but I knew
she hadn’t had time to not be timid –
she breaks like the doe.

Hidden, hooves tucked up underneath.
She rises and stamps on the ground.
Look at them,
her feet ashen;
slight and unsteady as they search for a suitable trail.
She won’t fall to the arrow.
The Huntsman thinks she breaks like the doe,
running, her tail in the air.
But the white flag isn’t surrender,
waning fear frees her heart lest she stay.

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