. . . I found a pair of velvet-coated antlers,
three fingers reaching from an open palm
still throbbing with platelet’s hot breath
as grave markings perched on snow.
I clasped the branched horns shed
and abandoned by some migrating buck,
discarded brow tine no doubt cast
from a fervent rut, and slid the pulsing
things into my rucksack, clanging against
my canteen and matches. Sportsmen
who shoot stags and fallow deer must
admire the fine velvet antlers dashing
into hilly mounds, and still attached
to the sinew of their owners. I knew a slit
was cut in their shoes, the split-hoofed
ungulates, seams cleaving in thorny
parts as threads sewn in wool. This elk
had followed me from hillside to grove,
darting from the woodlot to copse,
and let me pass unhindered. The deed
of this creature’s trophy offering
could not go unheeded, and so I laid
down my rifle in reciprocity.
Later, as I walked to my winter cabin,
boots fitted into my morning steps,
the crust of snow made a clear path.
His antlers banged against my hip flask
battering my flesh a tender bluish hue.
As I undressed beside my woodstove,
my bathwater steamed, and I kneeled
on a seat of the day’s planks. The fire
crackled and spat. I revealed the parts
of my body not immune to wear,
but becoming tired. I recalled I’d once
read of the artifact’s medicinal qualities
and so examined antlers in cobalt flame,
finding the thing an adequate specimen.
I did not hesitate to press my lips against
one thick branch, then sucked the velvet
sheathing, swallowing a fibrous chew.
It tumbled down my throat, and I entered
the water too. In moments, I felt tufts
of fine hair upon my brow as pedicles
grew. I submerged and was fated bone
collector to wander under this weird moon.
Cassidy McFadzean is a Regina-based poet and graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Her first collection, Hacker Packer (McClelland & Stewart, 2015), was shortlisted for two Saskatchewan book awards.