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The Stags

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This is the multitude, the beasts
you wanted to show me, drawing me
upstream, all morning up through wind-
scoured heather to the hillcrest.
Below us, in the next glen, is the grave
calm brotherhood, descended
out of winter, out of hunger, kneeling
like the signatories of a covenant;
their weighty, antique-polished antlers
rising above the vegetation
like masts in a harbor, or city spires.
We lie close together, and though the wind
whips away our man-and-woman smell, every
stag-face seems to look toward us, toward,
but not to us: we’re held, and hold them,
in civil regard. I suspect you’d
hoped to impress me, to lift to my sight
our shared country, lead me deeper
into what you know, but loath
to cause fear you’re already moving
quietly away, sure I’ll go with you,
as I would now, almost anywhere.

Source: Poetry (October 2012)

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This poem originally appeared in the October 2012 issue of Poetry magazine

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The Stags

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  • Born in the west of Scotland, Kathleen Jamie studied philosophy at Edinburgh University. At 19 she won the prestigious Eric Gregory Award, which enabled her to explore the Himalayas, and at 20 she published her first poetry collection, Black Spiders (1982).

    Jamie resists being identified solely as a Scottish poet, a woman writer, or a nature poet. Instead, she aims for her poetry to “provide a sort of connective tissue,” as she notes in a 2005 interview. As writer Tess Taylor observed in the Boston Review, in Jamie’s poetry “the simile is a form of repair.” Influenced by Seamus Heaney, Elizabeth Bishop, John Clare, and Annie Dillard, Jamie writes musical poems that attend to the intersection of landscape, history, gender, and language. Jamie often engages Scots speech in her poetry, enjoying the “feel of it and the texture of it in the mouth,” as she explains in an interview with...

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