Stag’s Leap, by Sharon Olds

7 September 2013

Then the creature on the label of our favourite red
looks like my husband, casting himself off a
cliff in his fervour to get free of me.
His fur is rough and cosy, his face
placid, tranced, ruminant,
the bough of each furculum reaches back
to his haunches, each tine on it grows straight up
and branches, like a model of his brain, archaic,
unwieldy. He bears its bony tray
level as he soars from the precipice edge,
dreamy. When anyone escapes, my heart
leaps up. Even when it’s I who am escaped from,
I am half on the side of the leaver. It’s so quiet,
and empty, when he’s left. I feel like a landscape,
a ground without a figure. Sauve
qui peut – let those who can save themselves
save themselves. Once I saw a drypoint of someone
tiny being crucified
on a fallow deer’s antlers. I feel like his victim,
and he seems my victim, I worry that the outstretched
legs on the hart are bent the wrong way as he
throws himself off. Oh my mate. I was vain of his
faithfulness, as if it was
a compliment, rather than a state
of partial sleep. And when I wrote about him, did he
feel he had to walk around
carrying my books on his head like a stack of
posture volumes, or the rack of horns
hung where a hunter washes the venison
down with the sauvignon? Oh leap,
leap! Careful of the rocks! Does the old vow
have to wish him happiness
in his new life, even sexual
joy? I fear so, at first, when I still
can’t tell us apart. Below his shaggy
belly, in the distance, lie the even dots
of a vineyard, its vines not blasted, its roots
clean, its bottles growing at the ends of their
blowpipes as dark, green, wavering groans.

//

In my lazy way, I thought I’d save myself typing this out by ripping it from elsewhere. And then, checking, I realised that the version I found had a number of differences – as it was taken from a version published in The New Yorker in 2003. Good revisions, I think, and interesting to see.

[Read in Stag’s Leap, published by Cape Poetry.]

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