The author tells the reader to remember a time when they were seventeen and drunk, driving home in their father’s station wagon at 3:00 AM on a two-lane curvy road in the middle of nowhere. A deer jumps out, you don’t see it. You try to steer clear but still manage to hit the deer as you wind up in the ditch with a busted up car. The deer, however, is still alive, barely. You pick up the deer and put it in the backseat and drive home. Midway through the drive, the deer wakes up and bites you but soon passes out. Once you get home, your dad freaks out, gets a concrete brick, and kills the deer. The poem ends by mentioning how all your life you leave a trail a ruin even though you try to fix the problem you created.
“Deer Hit” is a very straightforward poem when it comes to content. There are only a few references and other intricacies. The true beauty of this poem comes through other means: personal connection and the poem’s amazing imagery and sensory.
This poem is telling us to get in the shoes of this person who, yes, made a mistake by driving drunk. However, the person thinks he is doing something pure in bringing the deer home in hopes to cure it. Of course, it would be nearly impossible to cure the deer (this probably not a rare deer some wildlife conservation site would help). In which case, he made the grave mistake of not calling the police whom would probably kill the deer, or, if he didn’t want to call the police, then the local fish and game office. The deer instead went on suffering until the father put it out of its misery. Many mistakes were made in the hopes of doing something right. This is something many of us can relate to.
- Small moons – a reference to how the eyes of a deer glow in headlights
- Night of the Living Dead – a popular zombie flick, referencing the blood and look of the driver’s face and clothes
- You wanted to fix / what you’d broken—restore the beautiful body, / color of wet straw, color of oak leaves in winter? – a reference to trying to fix something that cannot be fixed
Poem: Deer Hit by Jon Loomis
You’re seventeen and tunnel-vision drunk,
swerving your father’s Fairlane wagon home
at 3:00 a.m. Two-lane road, all curves
and dips—dark woods, a stream, a patchy acre
of teazle and grass. You don’t see the deer
till they turn their heads—road full of eyeballs,
small moons glowing. You crank the wheel,
stamp both feet on the brake, skid and jolt
into the ditch. Glitter and crunch of broken glass
in your lap, deer hair drifting like dust. Your chin
and shirt are soaked—one eye half-obscured
by the cocked bridge of your nose. The car
still running, its lights angled up at the trees.
You get out. The deer lies on its side.
A doe, spinning itself around
in a frantic circle, front legs scrambling,
back legs paralyzed, dead. Making a sound—
again and again this terrible bleat.
You watch for a while. It tires, lies still.
And here’s what you do: pick the deer up
like a bride. Wrestle it into the back of the car—
the seat folded down. Somehow, you steer
the wagon out of the ditch and head home,
night rushing in through the broken window,
headlight dangling, side-mirror gone.
Your nose throbs, something stabs
in your side. The deer breathing behind you,
shallow and fast. A stoplight, you’re almost home
and the deer scrambles to life, its long head
appears like a ghost in the rearview mirror
and bites you, its teeth clamp down on your shoulder
and maybe you scream, you struggle and flail
till the deer, exhausted, lets go and lies down.
Your father’s waiting up, watching tv.
He’s had a few drinks and he’s angry.
Christ, he says, when you let yourself in.
It’s Night of the Living Dead. You tell him
some of what happened: the dark road,
the deer you couldn’t avoid. Outside, he circles
the car. Jesus, he says. A long silence.
Son of a bitch, looking in. He opens the tailgate,
drags the quivering deer out by a leg.
What can you tell him—you weren’t thinking,
you’d injured your head? You wanted to fix
what you’d broken—restore the beautiful body,
color of wet straw, color of oak leaves in winter?
The deer shudders and bleats in the driveway.
Your father walks to the toolshed,
comes back lugging a concrete block.
Some things stay with you. Dumping the body
deep in the woods, like a gangster. The dent
in your nose. All your life, the trail of ruin you leave.