Wild Horse / Wild Deer


Deep beneath the night, its lidded vault of stars,

awakened by the wind uncombing the hay: keenly,


your body situates itself within my own. The day arrives

as from an arduous journey. Finches burst from the grape arbor

like they just won a prize.

A man tips his head to one side, noticing

some passing detail, watching nothing happen.


I am the man. Two dreamlike horses stand in love,

neck to shoulder to chin, chin to shoulder

to neck, their secrets commingled, so nearly touching.

What hunger rises in their loins, the swole-necked buck deer

pausing at the pasture’s margin,

the estrus-addled mare, her face blank with need?

For example: to say what is true. The creased fetlock of the roan who stands

indifferently near the fence line. The crisp light

as evening descends. The frame your hands make, scene within a scene.

John Casteen’s Free Union (2009) and For the Mountain Laurel (2011) are part of the VQR Poetry Series from the University of Georgia Press. Recent or forthcoming poems appear in Fence, The Southern Review, The Paris Review, From the Fishouse, Ploughshares, Shenandoah, and other magazines, and in Best American Poetry and The Rumpus Poetry Anthology. He has contributed personal and topical nonfiction to Offline, The Morning News, Virginia Quarterly Review, Slate, The Washington Post, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and other magazines and newspapers. He lives in Earlysville, Virginia, and teaches poetry at Sweet Briar College, where he founded and directs the Sweet Briar Undergraduate Creative Writing Conference.