Illustration by Christian Ruiz

Dead Deer in the Backyard


I found a deer in the backyard today.  It was dead.

I had gone out to mow the back terrace, a section of the yard that slopes down to the next street, and there was this deer there.  I don't know if it was male or female, or how old it was. 

There were lots of flies around its head, especially around its eyes.  I think the flies were trying to get to whatever moisture was still there in the deer's eyes.  I don't know for sure.

It wasn't that big, but I didn't know how I was going to move it out of there.  For a moment, I thought about just covering it with leaves and letting it rot down there.  It was far enough from the house, and my wife Linda and I didn't go down much to that part of the yard.

But then I thought I couldn't that.  Linda's parents are coming later this week for a visit, and I bet they would want to walk around the backyard.  The terraces there are beautiful.  They are handmade, boarded by stone, and flowers whose names I don't know are everywhere. 

So I knew I had to get the deer out of there.  I grabbed its front legs and pulled it.  It wasn't big but even a small deer weighs enough to slow a guy down, and I just turned 70.  I got it up half way to the first of the three terraces, and I knew I couldn't drag it any farther.  I was covered with sweat by then, and the flies buzzing around the deer were all around me too. 

So I walked to the shed up by the house, and I got the wheelbarrow and brought it down.  It wasn't easy getting the deer in the wheelbarrow.  Dead weight.  You know what that means.

It was slow work but I managed it.  I pushed the thing up the slope, up the terraces with their beautiful flowers. 

It wasn't easy, but it wasn't hard either.  The wheelbarrow was sort of balanced.  The deer was small, but it filled that wheelbarrow.  The head and most of the neck, the front legs and the back legs - all of that was outside, balancing the wheelbarrow so even an old man could push the thing and the dead deer in it up a slope to the street.

What did I think about as I pushed the thing up the hill?

Stupid things. 

About Prometheus.

About Bill Stafford's poem about finding a dead deer on a road at night.  About how the hell he was able to drag that deer off to the side of the road so nobody would run into it. 

About another poem, William Carlos Williams's poem about how so much depends upon a wheelbarrow.

Stupid things.

Why did I think about them?

I thought about them, so I wouldn't have to think about this dead deer in my backyard and how she died and whether her dying would touch anyone except me.

John Guzlowski

John Guzlowski's poetry appears in Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac, North American Review, Rattle, Ontario Review, North American Review, Salon.Com, and many other journals.  His poems and personal essays about his Polish parents’ experiences as slave laborers in Nazi Germany and refugees making a life for themselves in Chicago appear in his memoir Echoes of Tattered Tongues (Aquila Polonica Press).  He is also a columnist for the Dziennik Zwiazkowy (the oldest Polish language daily in America) and the author of Suitcase Charlie, a noir thriller set in Chicago.  He is the recipient of the 2017 Benjamin Franklin Poetry Award and the Eric Hoffer Foundation's Montaigne Award for his book Echoes of Tattered Tongues.   He blogs about his parents and his life at:

John contributed to Volume 300.2.

Illustration by: Christian Ruiz, a freelance illustrator and animator who combines traditional and digital media for editorial and fantasy illustration, comics, and animation.