April 2012 - Comments Off

Horned and Heart Shaped

Brittany Kleinschnitz '13

Female deer do not normally produce antlers,
aside from reindeer or caribou.
The head - bare between the ears
and rounded, the flesh taut and
flat to skull - feminine,
and thus a lack of congenital weaponry.

So when she is found walking in fall,
between pines, a belly full,
they call her doe with skepticism, they
look at her branched antlers covered with velvet,
17 cm. high and bearing three points,
and say No woman here.

                 Artemis, Greek goddess of wilderness,
       childbirth and virginity - a mother of the hunt and
       simultaneous protector - her chariot is drawn by
       four deer. The fifth, Kerynean, roams free and
       cannot be captured.
                 When Agamemnon steals the life of a stag in
       a forest dedicated to Artemis, the goddess snuffs out
       the wind on the seas in Greece. For the wind’s
       return she demands sacrifice as reparation in the
       form of Iphigeneia, the king’s daughter. Yet, before
       the youth could be slaughtered, the good mother
       Artemis snatches her body up from the altar and
       deposits a deer in its place.

Pretty pseudohermaphrodite,
who steals your motherhood?

Internally, too, she is horned and heart shaped.
There is a baby in the bicornuate,
the fertile cornucopia filled with a certain fruit,
the horns of which ended blindly.
No one before has told her that she cannot bear young.

                 Native American lore (that of the Cherokee,
       the Muskogee, the Seminole, the Choctaw) calls the
       deer a shape-shifter. “Deer Woman”, a spirit that
       moves and morphs between forms at will from deer
       to woman and back again. She is a teacher of
       sexuality, fertility, and maturation.
                 When a man comes upon this spirit, she
       appears to be the most beautiful woman he has ever
       seen, his desire for a body contoured, lean and soft.
       She lures him with movement and her sex, the chase,
       towards the cover of trees, gives him a moment of
       ecstasy before driving his head into dirt with strong
       hooves, their edges sharp and cloven.

I see her move and I match stride through the thick
of dripping pines.
The curve of her body bulging with young,
and pumping blood.
Her spindly legs skipping beats, wobbling.

See me horned and heart shaped, too, internally.
Congenital bicornuate,
I have branched antlers
where others are bare and rounded.
A bent and empty cornucopia,
for this body is not as lithe as hers,
and not nearly as strong
to carry.

                 In the Celtic tradition, the deer is a symbol of
       femininity. They believed them to be faeries, a
       shape-shifter as well, changing from deer to woman
       in order to protect her fellow females from being
       hunted by men.
                 Celtic warrior, Finn, fell in love with and
       married the goddess Sadb to allow her a human
       form after a druid had turned her into a deer. Upon
       returning from battle one day, Finn finds that Sadb
       is missing and searches for her for seven years. Time
       passes, and while out hunting, Finn comes upon a
       boy. He is naked and his hair is long. The boy says
       that he lives in the woods with his mother, a gentle
       doe. Finn realizes he has found his love, and that she
       had given birth to a human child, his child, and dubs
       him Oisin, meaning “little fawn”.

What women are we, how masculine,
what organically malformed beauty is hidden beneath velvet skin?

In the heat of a sunbeam
she paws the dirt, upturning stones,
and grunts like a stag.
Rubbing soft clothed antlers impatiently on a tree,
the bark crumbling, she bends at the knees as woven wicker
and I move to sit parallel,
cross-legged. Her body shifts from beneath its weight
and the stomach rests, balanced
on a bed of moss and leaves.

Brittany Kleinschnitz is a junior and studies Visual Arts, with a focus in photography and printmaking, and Literature.

Published by: in Poetry, Prose, Volume 68

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