Kelly Weber is the author of the debut poetry collection We Are Changed to Deer at the Broken Place (Tupelo Press, 2022). Her work has received Pushcart nominations and has appeared or is forthcoming in The Laurel Review, Brevity, The Missouri Review, The Journal, Palette Poetry, Southeast Review, Passages North, and elsewhere. She holds an MFA from Colorado State University and lives in Colorado with two rescue cats. More of her work can be found at kellymweber.com.
A Girl Born with Musk Deer Teeth
Feral girl, she lived in a small house where she sucked on hearts and her fingers when she burned them. Wild thing, sometimes she took the moon under her tongue and laid it jagged, blue, raw on the floor to study.
Living in the rows and rows of empty houses of the suburbs, she treated the view out the window and the furniture inside the house as the strangest of places. She crouched on the table and ran her fingers over the grooves, studied the marks of the occupants in the wood. All the knives in the drawer were small pieces of light. The ceiling fan, fixed with its blades cutting the light over and over again, held a kind of darkness under each piece of burning.
Sometimes at night she dreamed that she lived among ten thousand deer in the days when they all still had tusks, before ice and other extinctions. She carried this inside of her until, eventually, she gave birth to this dream, slick and blue, and it ran away from her human feet. Other nights she thought she had been a river in a former life, and the tears that kept flowing out of her eyes were actually former rainstorms that she had swallowed and that were now leaking out of her.
The girl born with deer fangs sometimes tore the walls to shreds and sometimes shattered all the windows and mirrors. What she was not prepared for were the calm days. Days when she would venture out of the house and walk in public, sometimes stringing lights around her and hoping no one would notice. She snuck her way into university classrooms and slipped into the back, sitting awkwardly tall in the small chairs and small desks. When called on, however, she would twist and writhe out of her seat to escape the pointing fingers of men who kept speaking words at her, who did not like her teeth. She disliked being told the language in her molars. The shape of the question in her face in the windows she walked by looked like the moon. She was both frightened and calmed to keep finding herself this way in the world.
She thought about stealing someone’s face. She thought about stealing bark off a tree and trying on someone else’s head for a short while to be a different kind of creature in the world. What else could make the world stop tasting like sugar and glass that she couldn’t stop eating?
Finally, she walked back into the room with the green chalkboard and ticking clock. A man was hanging his language on her teeth again, immediately. She twisted and felt something like a tingling in her ribs; though she had been born with fangs without her choice, she found that she didn’t need to steal a new mouth. She dropped to all fours and water poured out of her throat. Fish spilled onto the floor. When she stood back up, she pulled a string of papers out of her mouth and set them on a desk. She called it a language. She called the new fur covering her body the first word in this new language. The second word was the way all the eyes in the room landed on her, and the way her eyes gazed on them, how it felt—the first word.