Take Heart: A Conversation in Poetry: Where the Deer Were

Edited and introduced by Wesley McNair, Maine Poet Laureate

Kate Barnes of Union, who was Maine's first official poet laureate, passed away last month. Her poetry, however, lives on, known to readers by its intimate tone, its attention to nature, and a third characteristic she once said was common to all poetry: "the trancelike effect of language artfully used." Today's poem commemorates Kate and her beautiful work.

Where the Deer Were by Kate Barnes

It's always hard to form a true picture
of what's happening, isn't it?
Difficult to know what's what.
                                          For instance,
the moving tenderness of the desiring man,
the gentle vanity of the desired woman
sliding their bare arms together
in the grass across the stream.
                                      It's late summer,
a misty day, but warm.
                               I can't see their faces.
So what is happening, really?
Perhaps they are fighting—very evenly.
Perhaps those sounds are groans of pain.
                                                                                       Now the mist
closes my eyes.
                          When it lifts once more,
I see nothing over there
but a hollow in the long grass
like the places where deer have been lying,
and the only thing I hear
is shallow water making excuses to stone.

Take Heart: A Conversation in Poetry is produced in collaboration with the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. Poem copyright © 1994 David Goldine. Reprinted from Where the Deer Were, David R. Goldine, Publisher, Inc., by permission of David Goldine. Questions about submitting to Take Heart may be directed to Gibson Fay-LeBlanc, Special Consultant to the Maine Poet Laureate, at mainepoetlaureate@gmail.com or 207-228-8263. Take Heart: Poems from Maine, an anthology collecting the first two years of this column, is now available from Down East Books.