Several weeks ago, my copy of Nathan Hauke’s IN THE MARBLE OF YOUR ANIMAL EYES came in the mail while I was headed out the door, and I had just enough time to read what I’m seeing as the first page/poem, just past the epigraphs and the treated definition of “pastoral,” which begins:
Thinking you should be home already.
Bark scarred from antlers or whatever
The next two lines are crossed out. If you’re reading and talking about the whole poem, it’s important to know what those lines (all the crossed-out lines in this book) are, but for the purposes of talking about these first two lines, which have been all up in my dream space ever since, you just need the sensation of crossed-out typed text coming up next, just inside your range of vision.
Sometimes-rural and adjacent to hunters, I know the words “scrapes” and “rubs” for the thing described in the second line, that fall and hunting season and “the rut” all coincide, that scrapes can be about marking territory or mating or rubbing the velvet off or communicating other information to other deer or feeding from some low-hanging branches. Hunter-adjacent, I am not sure if we are supposed to say “antlers” in this context instead of “rack,” but the internet thinks that we are: I think a rack can only be possessed – these are in liminal space. Hunter-adjacent, I have no idea why the language of hunters seems to me like the primary language when talking about deer, why I want to use words a hunter would approve of, why rural language should be synonymous with hunter’s language; as a hiker and a sometimes-rural citizen, I see deer often and have reason to talk about them. People who prioritize the trees’ well-being, mostly people who are cultivating ownership of trees, call rubs “fraying.” If you don’t want to fence your trees in, you might discourage “fraying” by displaying humbly intimate items, soap bars and garnishes of your own hair.
One of the tweenage kids I have the honor to share a home with responds to verbal corrections with “whatever.” Not the accented, sarcastic version of sitcoms, but an everyday response to interruption, a signal we need to keep on moving forward, errors or disagreements be damned. The speed of thinking sometimes gets out of step with the speed of movement or action, so some leap-frog happens: a speaker ends up in constant displacement or uncanniness. Walking through a doorway only sort of purges our event models: we remember enough to know we missed something, that once we were on a slightly different side of the room.
Antler as a state of being out ahead of our own eyes: they can really be attached to anything. When and how often people should be “home” is debatable, but I am pretty sure it is evening, with the peripheral, crossed-out options feeling just as present, realistic, and trackable as whatever antlering has already made the speaker realize.