Deer in Headlights

Karen Zheng

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.

With the help of roadkill, Karen Zheng’s “Deer in Headlights” reveals the complicated subject of human compassion. Zheng’s poem carefully exposes the multifaceted experience of shock, the equation of caring, and how in a capitalist society, it has become our own nature to never be entirely present.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.

Yolk began as an electric conversation around a picnic table in Saint Henri Square.

Our scruffy pioneer and present prose editor had previously approached each of us with an idea, a vision: We would establish our own literary magazine in Montreal. And so it was, or so it would be. After that original encounter, eight individuals devoted to the word resolved that they would gather bi-weekly, on Sundays, and bring something new into this busy, manic world—something that might slow its spin down somewhat and cause its patronage to say: “You know what, it ain’t so bad, is it, Susan?”

We are undergraduate, graduate, and graduated students of writing. Some of us learn our craft formally from accomplished authors in seminar courses, and some of us learn by looking out the window of the world and onto the streets that sing below. Some of us learn from screaming squirrels, old curtains, departed grandfathers, and bowel movements. We learn from old lovers, long winters, imperfect mothers, and from the deep internet where a musical genius remains entombed.

Yolk is cold floors on Sabbath mornings, home-brewed ginger beer in the endless afternoon, and downpours of French-pressed coffee in assorted artisanal mugs. Our first official gathering was scheduled for a duration of two hours; most of us remained for six, departing only to attend to the summons of our own beckoning realities. Together, with time suspended, we talked endlessly of contributing something to disrupt Montreal’s literary ecosystem. Something unparalleled, something true.

But what? There was nothing to discuss. There was everything to discuss.

We volunteer our time, hounding some elusive beast composed of combustible words and works. We are hopeful, truly hopeful, that we can give something new, a new way, a new light, and that if we cannot, we might at least uphold the traditions of our predecessors, cast star-wide nets to capture their echoes. We are a thousand decisions. We are a sanctuary for the orphaned word, the solitary writer, the cereal-eating artist who yearns for company, for the comfort of a like mind; we sit together with them at foggy dawn, it rains a baptism, with our arms and hands intertwined, we form an umbrella—underneath, they scribble madly, the perfect picture.

Yolk in no way presumes to be superior to its contemporaries, but its contemporaries should not presume yolk to be anything other than loud—quite, quite loud. We are yippidy jazzed to address the oh-so-technicolorful magnificence of the human experience, but we are prepared also to address the ugliness, to stare at its wet, hairy snout and into its square depth and to roar in return at the things that yearn to devour our skin, beset our ethos, and dig graves in our own backyards.

There’s so much to say, there’s so much we don’t know, but together, with you, we can placate that ignorance, render it peaceful, tolerable, and perhaps even, fucking beautiful.

And Susan says, “Amen.”

A daughter died. Just now, 
took her last breath.
Her mass of fur still on the road. 
Next to your car, 
a crime scene. 
Your headlights smashed. 

Her muscular legs bound
in front of you. She has dark eyes,
your hazy yellow lights illuminate them.
You do not speak deer, but her mouth twitches.
The thought of berries. Her ears are curled
like a blanket, tucking the whir of traffic away.

In deer heaven, there are fields and fields
of grass and bunches of fruit.
Fawns are taken especially 
good care of. It is always spring there.

You put your key back
into the ignition, listen
to your car’s rumble to life.
The exhaust engulfs her. 

Thank god it was just one
headlight. You will have to put another
$300 on your credit card.
It will max out.
You will call your uncle asking
if he can fix this damn car.
You will ask for a discount.
You will google how deer
name their children.

On the front bumper,
there’s a tuft of her hair.

Karen Zheng is a first-generation, queer, Chinese-American. Her poetry has been featured in Emerson Review, Sine Theta Magazine, Honey Literary, The Wave, and elsewhere. She is a Breadloaf Writers’ Conference Contributor in 2022. In her free time, she hosts the Mx. Asian American podcast and Tucked in Bed podcast. Find out more about her at karenzheng.com.

Products from this story

No items found.

Additional reading

august

Sicilian Blue