Deer

The deer my mother swears to God we never saw,

the ones that stepped between the trees

on pound coin-coloured hooves,

I’d bring them up each teatime in the holidays

 

and they were brighter every time I did;

more supple than the otters we waited for

at Ullapool, more graceful than the kingfisher

that darned the river south of Rannoch Moor.

 

Five years on, in that same house, I rose

for water in the middle of the night and watched

my mother at the window, looking out

to where the forest lapped the garden’s edge.

 

From where she stood, I saw them stealing

through the pines and they must have been closer

than before, because I had no memory

of those fish-bone ribs, that ragged fur

 

their eyes, like hers, that flickered back

towards whatever followed them.