The deer’s stare into the world of things

Deer come out of the poplars just as day becomes night; they move in the blue air. Dropped grain near the house glistens in the hollow they’ve licked and stamped over the weeks into snow. Their bodies are dense with strangeness and are weightless, brief electric arcs on the eye, eloquent, two does faring well this winter, bow-sided, v-faced, coming down the slope through low willow and wild rose that holds the last of light. They stop repeatedly, their coloratura caution; their bodies seem the constant, quavering afterglow of this strained attention. Yet the gold of the grain pulls the goldenness of them. They come the last steps quickly along a path notched with their prints from nights before and bend to eat. Shadow soaks into them. One of them jerks up a look, then the other. They see me standing by the woodpile. They stare. I stare.

Consciousness walks across the land bridge of the deer’s stare into the world of things. This is knowing. It tastes of sorrow and towering appetite. Their look seems a bestowal; I feel more substantial, less apologetic as a physical thing from having been seen. The traded look goes on in the building dark. There is no intention here, noting of fairy tale or hagiography, animals lying down with the solitary, animals bearing messages, scrolls caught in the clefts of their hooves. There is only wild seeing, the feel of it unimaginable: I am seen straight through (of that, no doubt) but cannot say how I am seen. Travelling back through the conductor of this gaze, something of me, a slant I’d never guess, enters them. Their look has a particularity, an inexpressibility, so high-pitched it attracts myths. No wonder some say the darkness of the forest is a god.

— Tim Lilburn, Living in the World as if It Were Home

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