Isabelle Baafi: the culling

the culling

       gods come

like       the frost

dragging frost

      their front hooves

scratching mangled

the gods know       Us
       by name

even when
              We change
       Our names

      cherry blossoms on
Does’ ears


ferns draped
       on Our backs

unfurling without end


           of bramble

      when We pass
the azaleas

      the mice crush       berries
to mark
       Our path

      there is a scent
on Those       who are picked

but not always

       Their face       scorched
              into tree bark

sometimes       bats mimic
       Their call

       Their antlers
spread wide             like paws
              that tremble
       when holding sky

look west
       when they pass

                        and live

They say

trample mushrooms
       in clusters of five

hide a badger tooth
       in resin

chew the left wing
       of a moth

      but my Mother
gone       with the rowan

Her haunches      bent
       into atrophy

      surrender       staining
this bruise       of grass
       the grove-shrine
where the first Doe       appeared

      let Us anchor
Our reflections
       in the river       with rocks

      stack pinecones
              offer them
       to the lightning

      let’s race
the mist       swarming downhill

      fleeing the moment
that swallows

      this one

Note: This poem is inspired by the annual deer cull in Richmond Park.

Isabelle Baafi is a writer, poet, editor, and critic from London. Her debut pamphlet, Ripe (ignitionpress), was a winner of the 2021 Somerset Maugham Award, and was the PBS Pamphlet Choice for Spring 2021. She was also the winner of the 2019 Vincent Cooper Literary Prize, and was shortlisted for the 2021 Brunel International African Poetry Prize, and the 2020 Bridport Prize. Her poems have been published in The Poetry Review, Magma, and elsewhere. She is a Ledbury Poetry Critic, an Obsidian Foundation Fellow, and a Board Member at Magma. She is currently writing her debut poetry collection