Deer in the Haystacks
Dixie Partridge’s first book, Deer in the Haystacks, is amazingly unified in theme and style. She writes of her past without lapsing into nostalgia; her sense of time is less literal and more experiential, and the past and present often fuse into one. Although she does not write solely of death and the cold of Wyoming, these subjects are rarely far away. These poems display a strong sense of craft and of Partridge’s understanding that what is left unsaid is often as important as that which is said.
Deer in the Haystacks
Down from the frozen hills, grey life
came straggling: white hunger
looking for a reason.
When I was younger, I wanted to feed them;
Dad nudged against my impulse:
they were trouble enough, jumping haystack fences,
leaving hide on barbed wire and sometimes blood
dripping a bright trail on crusted snow.
As it was, with cattle to winter, hard-grown
alfalfa stacks would run out before the long Wyoming cold.
The heavy-snowfall years, we battled the hunger
in them, their fear of humans left back
with higher altitudes, back with the rifle-crack
of hunting season. Heads down,
they’d stand their ground against our antics;
the dog had little more success, barking them halfway
across fields, where weakness dropped them.
We toughened fences and boarded up stacks,
fingers brittle and cold like the nails,
breath frozen in our nostrils.
The hard winter of ’58, they came
right into the barnyard. One morning
I found a gaunt doe sniffing the milkhouse platform,
legs bloody from pawing crusty snow.
I shooed her away; hooves clattered on ice,
legs shot out like strawsticks. The dog ran at her,
barking. She didn’t flinch.
From the house later
I could see faint steam rising above her
to an ice-blue sky.
Copyright © 1984 by Dixie Partridge
Dixie Partridge earned a degree in English from Brigham Young University and studied creative writing through Eastern Washington University. Her poems are widely published in anthologies and in national and regional journals such as America, Birmingham Poetry Review, The Georgia Review, and Ploughshares. She is working on her fourth collection of poems and recently completed her third book manuscript, Not About Dreams.