Don’t Look Back

A Wounded Deer—leaps highest—
I’ve heard the Hunter tell—
‘Tis but the Ecstasy of death—
And then the Brake is still!
~Emily Dickinson from “165″

The deer in that beautiful place lay down their
bones: I must wear mine.
~Robinson Jeffers from “The Deer Lay Down Their Bones”

As the house of a person
in age sometimes grows cluttered
with what is
too loved or too heavy to part with,
the heart may grow cluttered.
And still the house will be emptied,
and still the heart.

Empty and filled,
like the curling half-light of morning,
in which everything is still possible and so why not.

Filled and empty,
like the curling half-light of evening,
in which everything now is finished and so why not.

Beloved, what can be, what was,
will be taken from us.
I have disappointed.
I am sorry. I knew no better.

A root seeks water.
Tenderness only breaks open the earth.
This morning, out the window,
the deer stood like a blessing, then vanished.

~Jane Hirschfield from “The Standing Deer”

My first time ever
seated next to my mother
in a movie theater, just
a skinny four year old girl
practically folded up in half
by a large padded chair
whose seat won’t stay down,
bursting with anticipation
to see Disney’s Bambi.

Enthralled with so much color,
motion, music, songs and fun
characters, I am wholly lost
in a new world of animated
reality when suddenly
Bambi’s mother looks up,
alarmed,  from eating
a clump of grass
growing in the snow.

My heart leaps
with worry.
She tells him
to run
for the thicket,
to seek safety where
she has always
kept him warm
next to her.

She follows behind,
tells him to run faster,
not to look back,
don’t ever look back.

The gun shot
hits my belly too.

My stomach twists
as he cries out
for his mother,
pleading for her.
I know in my heart
she is lost forever,
sacrificed for him.

I sob as my mother
reaches out to me,
telling me not to look.
I bury my face
inside her hug,
knowing Bambi
is cold and alone
with no mother
at all.

She took me home
before the end.
I could not bear to watch
the rest of the movie for years.
His cries
still echo
in my ears.

Now, my children are grown
and have children of their own to protect.
My mother is gone from this earth,
my thicket emptying,
my heart full,
my stomach stronger,
I even keep the seat from folding
me up in a movie theater.

I now can look back
and weep inconsolably
once more.

3 thoughts on “Don’t Look Back

  1. I was about nine y.o. when my father took me to see Bambi. A first for me – and for him. It was a surprise treat for getting all A’s on my quarterly report card. At the scene you vividly describe here, Emily, I recall that same paralyzing, fearful, sick feeling all over. I ran to the lobby, with my surprised,
    worried, father after me. He took me home pronto. We remained in silence. The only memorable, saving outcome happened as I exited the car. Daddy came around to me, took me in his arms — for the first time in my life — and let me cry it out. I can still recall my reaction to the trauma of seeing the little fawn Bambi lost and terrified,
    Almost like a miracle, the terrifying image gradually softened as I distinctly re-lived my father’s embrace and mute but healing consolation. I WAS LOVED. REALLY LOVED. WITHOUT A SINGLE WORD, HIS STRONG CARING ARMS GAVE ME THE FIRST LESSON IN LOVE — THE SAME AFFIRMATION THAT JESUS SHOWS US WHEN WE SEEK HIM WHEN WE HURT AND ARE AFRAID.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes, Alice, you understand completely what this meant to me. Maybe Bambi made a difference in many childrens’ and parents’ lives far beyond what was intended. love, Emily


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