The Deer in the Barns

by | Dec 4, 2012 | Poetry



In autumn, the men hang deer

Upside down from the barn rafters.

Run their knives the whole length

Of the belly then barrel-hoop their arms

And yank out the guts like a sack of potatoes.

Their eyes tear from the smell

And blood drips down onto newspapers.

Laughing, drinking, talking

Late into the night, they gather around the animal,

Its eyes blank as bullets, the tongue

A pink glove in its mouth,

The lip curled as if to speak.


One of the sons, rubbing the soft curve

Of the deer’s ear, asks questions

About death, and once again,

They all huddle about the moonlit dark

With the same sacred lies,

Doomed creatures themselves, afraid to flinch.




Photo by Alexander von Halem

About The Author

Peter Bethanis

Peter Bethanis’s poems, essays, and stories have appeared in Poetry, Tar River Poetry, Haight Ashbury Literary Journal, River Review, Country Journal, and the Indianapolis Star among others.  In 1995 he was selected by James Dickey as winner of the Eve of St. Agnes Poetry Prize.  His poems “American Future” and “Li Hua’s Messenger” have been selected as featured poems on Poetry Magazine’s website.  He has been a finalist in the New Issues Poetry Prize and the National Poetry Series.  His poems have been anthologized in several collections including The Hecht Poetry Anthology and the Mellon Poetry Anthology.  He is the author of two books, Dada and Surrealism for Beginners from Random House and American Future, a collection of poems, from Entasis Press.  He has taught at several universities and is currently a professor in the writing program at Ball State where he has taught for fifteen years.