Take Heart: A Conversation in Poetry: The Solemn Son

Edited and introduced by Wesley McNair, Maine Poet Laureate

Shooting a deer is a common rite of initiation for boys in Maine. But in today’s sonnet, by Thomas Carper of Cornish, the initiation has gone very wrong.

The Solemn Son by Thomas Carper

“It’s his.” They’ll weigh it out behind the store.
Harry Nason writes the boy’s name, Steve
Burnell. The boy looks solemnly at the floor,
Trying to work it out. It’s hard to believe
That in one deafening moment in the woods,
At daybreak, as he shivered from the cold,
So much could change. He overhears his dad’s
Words as Harry has the story told.
“Two shots…the heart.” He’d hardly time to see
The buck before the crashing blasts that killed
Him rang in his ears so overpoweringly
That just when he was sure he’d be fulfilled
He felt dazed and deserted. Now the son
Hears Harry’s voice from miles away. “Well done.”

Take Heart: A Conversation in Poetry is produced in collaboration with the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. Poem copyright © 2003 Thomas Carper. Reprinted from The Maine Poets, Down East Books, 2003, by permission of Thomas Carper. 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.