Doe Season in Mamma’s Kitchen
Every week or so Daddy brings home a stiff-legged,
russet-colored doe and hangs her by her feet on my swing set.
Mamma blinks her eyes away and silently wipes
down the aged green countertops
with a dilapidated kitchen sponge.
He is careful with the knife in the afternoon sun,
blood mixing with sweat,
dripping from his elbows.
The dirt below is painted a muddy sienna
that stays for days.
We are careful where we step,
remembering the blood that had
drained from her nose.
Daddy works quickly.
I turn my eyes from the tongue, hanging there
fat, limp, pink.
Mamma defrosts the freezer with hot water
that runs across the floor.
We mop it up quickly,
slip out of Daddy’s way as he carries each
veiny lump to the counter.
He washes them carefully.
They drop and slap loudly in the sink.
He wraps them, marks them,
arranges them in piles on the table.
Mamma prepares the flour and the skillet.
Christina Ward, 2019
My childhood was a humble, but blessed one. I grew up in a family of 7: my parents, my 4 siblings and I, in a 2 bedroom, one bath “mill house.” My father was a deer hunter, as are most of the Uncles in my family. I remember gathering around them to hear their “deer stories” which were basically long, drawn-out tales of their hunting adventures. You will never meet a finer bunch of hard-working, nature-loving, down-to-earth men as these.
My final year of college I wrapped up a minor in English with a “concentration in writing” as there was no writing minor available to me, by taking a class in environmental writing. This class was designed for me. I was the only student. I began the words that would eventually become this poem while in that class. I wanted to pay tribute to the legacy of deer hunting and the genuine, deep love for the environment in my family.
A word about deer hunting and the environment: Due to habitat loss and fragmentation, would-be predators for deer (other species populations) have been forced into smaller areas as they retreat from areas they once roamed and hunted freely. Ecologically speaking, the numbers of prey species outnumber their respective predators. When the predators are removed, the populations of the species they would normally prey upon can reach unsustainable levels which could lead to too much competition for food and subsequently starvation, among a host of other issues. The US Fish & Widlife service and state Fish and Wildlife Services are crucial in monitoring population trends and setting hunting parameters which are then used to monitor key populations. The fees collected from hunters to maintain their hunting licenses also contribute to environmental conservation projects.
For more information:
***Trophy hunting of big game and endangered or threatened species, however, is another matter. I will offer NO argument in favor of that travesty.
Thank you so much for reading my poem. I understand this is a subject matter that can be difficult. I grew up very conflicted with my LOVE for deer (as equal a time my father spent hunting, we spent loaded up in the car driving at a snail’s pace through local state parks to look for, count and watch the deer) and my desire to understand why people would want to hunt them. I understood my father hunted and fed our family but as a child, it was still difficult to accept. I am grateful now to have a better understanding. Again, thank you for reading “Doe Season in Mamma’s Kitchen.”
Please see some of my other poetry on environmental issues, nature, and wildlife. Together we all play a very important role!