LAURA READ Deer are the obvious stand-ins for the dead

which is why I followed
two of them through the Samish Island
Community of Christ campground

where I was because it’s where
my husband used to go
with his brother and his mother,

both of whom are now dead.
I forgot to explain, though it is
probably unnecessary, why deer

are the perfect manifestation:
it’s their knobby knees and slender
legs, their fragility and strength,

the way they stop only for a moment
to look in your eyes in that way
it takes a whole lifetime to find

and the way you know they are about
to go. I found them at the top
of the trail I was following down

to the beach where I remember
Brad’s brother and his wife and child
running when we had the car all

packed and ready to go and I was hungry
and wanted to go out for lunch
but they wanted to have a Moment,

which I found a little overly
constructed but is exactly what
I’m doing now. I picked a wild rose

and left it on a bench.
It was starting to rain, which fits in
nicely. What doesn’t fit is the two deer

I saw individually on my way home,
each one’s head twisted back
by the car that had hit it and left it

lying there on the road
as if to say there was no wild rose
or beach or rain. Some nights I dream

that someone wakes me
and says Why aren’t you packed?
We’re leaving for Paris!

The person is dumping my clothes
into a giant suitcase and looking
for my passport. I only have the one

from when I went last, when I was 20,
so we decide I’ll just wear sunglasses,
which is fine because I like to keep

the years to myself.
Often what I want is impossible
like going back to Paris again and also

never returning to that city where
my throat filled with dust from speaking
to no one. This time all the clothes

I packed are red so here I am in Paris,
frightened and obvious.
If you see me like this, you will know

we are in my dream together
and that you should follow me
because I am a sign.


Laura Read‘s chapbook The Chewbacca on Hollywood Boulevard Reminds Me of You won the Floating Bridge Chapbook Award in 2010, and her first full-length collection, Instructions for My Mother’s Funeral, was chosen as the winner of the AWP/Donald Hall Prize for Poetry by Dorianne Laux in 2011 and published in 2012 by the University of Pittsburgh Press. Her second collection, Dresses from the Old Country, was published by BOA in October of 2018. Her individual poems have received awards from The Florida Review, Dogwood, and Crab Creek Review and have been published in many different journals, including most recently, Radar, Beloit Poetry Journal, Blood Orange Review, and The New York Times Magazine. She teaches English Composition, Literature, and Creative Writing at Spokane Falls Community College and serves as the poetry editor for Crab Creek Review.