The Seeker

A Meta-Cognitive Journal About Writing… Plus Other Stuff

“The Nature of the Beast”

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continued from yesterday…

I’ve been digging through my journals to find out when I started drafting “The Nature of the Beast.”  My first evidence of it is on September 30, 2012.  That’s not when I started writing it, though–I think I started writing the poem, or the story, years ago.  The episode upon which it is based has hung around in my mind for literally decades, ever since it happened.  That’s almost always a huge signal that I’ve got a story or poem ready to draft.  Those crumpled leaves stuck in the cobwebs of my mind that never get swept away by time, that steadfastly cling in the corners, oft times yield the best and most meaningful writing as I try to figure out what they mean.

This one started as a paragraph, which anymore is my preferred method as I begin to draft a poem.  I can’t remember exactly where I picked this one up, though I think it came from The Practice of Poetry, which I bought at a library clearance sale in Lake Geneva quite some time ago.  It sits on my nightstand, and on the occasions that I crack it open, some type of gold usually pours forth.  So after years of this episode sitting in my mind, I sat down and generated this paragraph in my huge black poetry writing journal:

Grab the wire cutters my father called to me from the back yard.  There was a deer caught in the fence that separated our flat green yard from the wild brown weeds beyond.  He had tried to jump the fence but was snagged there like a clumsy criminal who hadn’t thought out his crime very carefully, or overestimated all he could get away with.  That’s what the deer were–criminals.  Mostly petty, but always malicious.  They’d gnawed our cherry saplings down to the ground.  They were constantly raiding the garden under the bright rustic moon, not just eating but trampling plants and scarring the soil and soiling the rows.  They taunted our dogs, and one buck had used his antlers to launch our orange tomcat ass over teakettle.  Yet there one was, caught, scared, vulnerable to his victims and whatever other hardened criminal might happen along.  He stood there on three legs, desperately yanking the fourth.  We didn’t snip any wires, just separated some crossed strands and allowed him to break free and spring uphill with his white tail flashing.  All it took was hands and hearts in the right place.

I have a ton of drafts from a few different journals for the next six weeks as I kept returning to the poem.  I remember at one point I did some research into the term used for the sounds deer make.  Turns out the term is “wheeze.”  The final draft I have once it made it to a word processing document is dated January 17, 2013.  That was enough time for me to generate this, with the help of the supremely talented poet and editor Barbara Bennett:

The Nature of the Beast by Jeff Burd
There is a deer caught in the fence
at the back of our property;
one of a gang of delinquents
who are in the garden more than weeds.
They gnaw the tomatoes and beans.
They scar the soil and soil the rows.
They taunt our dogs.
One of them hooked our orange tomcat
with his rack and
flung him ass over tea kettle.
This one wheezes as we trudge back to him—
a tough cover for how vulnerable
he now is to his victims and
whatever else might come through the brake.
He kicks and struggles against the wires
until we get our hands in the right places
for him to spring himself.
He glares at us from the other side of
the fence, wheezes again,
and then sprints uphill
with his white tail flashing.


Written by seeker70

December 31, 2013 at 4:51 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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