The death of the doe

Bleeding volcano with frozen tears

Bleeding volcano with frozen tears

This was written by a Romanian poet called Nicolae Labis. So it goes:

The death of the doe


Drought snuffed out any waft of wind.

The sun has melted and dripped on earth.

The sky remains hot and empty.

Out of the well only mud is drawn.

Across the woods, again and again, fires, oh, fires,

Dance in wild, satanical plays.


I follow father uphill through shrubs,

And firs scratch me, mean and harsh.

We’re off together on the goat hunt,

The famine hunt on the Carpathian range.


Thirst makes me crumble. On the stone boils

The thread of water seeping from the fountain.

My temple presses on my shoulder.

I tread as on another Planet, enormous, foreign and heavy.


We wait in a place where out of the strings

Of gentle waves the springs still sing.

When the sun wanes, when the moon glimmers

Here to drink, one by one, does will come queuing.


I tell father I’m thirsty and he waves me into silence.

Intoxicating water, how clear you swerve!

I feel bound by thirst to the creature that shall die

At a time proscribed by law and custom.


With a sere rustle the valley breathes.

What a terrible evenfall floats in this universe!

On the horizon blood flows and my chest is red as if

Blood-stained hands have been wiped on it.


As if on an altar, ferns burn in blue flames,

And stars twinkle surprised among them.

Oh, how I wish you’d not come, you’d not come,

Beautiful offering of my woods!


She suddenly appeared leaping, then stopped

Looking around with a glimmer of fear.

Her thin nostrils make the water tremble

In slippery circles of bronze.


Something obscure glinted in her humid eyes,

I knew she would die and it would hurt her.

It seemed to me I was reliving a myth

With the maiden transfigured into a doe.


From above, the pale, lunar light

Snowed on her warm fur faded cherry blossoms.

Oh, how I wished for the first time

That my father’s aim should fail!


But the valleys thundered. Fallen on her knees,

She raised her head, shook it at the stars,

Then let it swoop, bestirring in the water

Transient, black swarms of beads.


A blue bird shot from the branches,

And the doe’s life towards the late horizon

Flew softly, with a cry, like birds do in autumn

When they leave behind ashen, bare nests.


Stumbling forward I went to close

Her shadowed eyes, sadly watched over by antlers.

Then I flinched silent and white when father

Whispered joyfully: We have meat!


I tell father I’m thirsty and he signals I should drink.

Intoxicating water, how darkly you swerve!

I feel bound by thirst to the creature that died

At a time proscribed by law and custom.


Yet our law is empty and alien

When life barely clings on inside our bodies,

And custom and pity are empty,

When my sister is hungry, sick and dying.


Father’s rifle breathes smoke on one nostril.

Alas, with no wind to stir them, leaves run in hosts!

Father raises a fearful fire.

Oh, how changed the woods are!


From inside the grass, I mindlessly grasp

A small bell with a silvery ring…

From the skewer father pulls out with his nails

The doe’s heart and its kidneys.

What is heart? I hunger! I want to live, and I would like…


You, forgive me, dear maiden – you, my little doe!

I’m sleepy. How tall the fire is! And how deep the woods!

I weep. What does father think?

I eat and I weep. I eat!


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