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Poetry Moment: 'Whitetail' by Abby Minor

Poet Abby Minor in a meadow
Jennifer Anne Tucker
Poet Abby Minor

Poetry Moment on WPSU is a program featuring the work of contemporary Pennsylvania poets. Host Todd Davis is a professor of English and Environmental Studies at Penn State Altoona.

This episode’s poem is “Whitetail” by Abby Minor.

Abby Minor lives in the ridges and valleys of central Pennsylvania, where she works on poems, essays, drawings, and projects exploring reproductive politics. Her first book, As I Said: A Dissent, is a collection of long documentary poems concerning abortion, embodiment, justice, and citizenship in U.S. history. Granddaughter of Appalachian tinkerers and Yiddish-speaking New Yorkers, she has worked as a seamstress, server, landscaper, preschool teacher, university writing instructor, produce truck driver, and roadie. As the founding director of Ridgelines Language Arts, she teaches poetry in her region’s low-income nursing homes.

White-tailed deer are ubiquitous in Pennsylvania, appearing both in suburban lawns and in deep forests, eating their way through gardens and landscaping, leaping through fields of corn and across fences with the grace and athleticism of a dancer. An incredibly adaptable species, they’re not only wild animals but cultural icons, helping to create stories and community traditions, leading some to hunt and others to preserve.

In her poem, Minor considers the spaces where deer sleep, how their absence is reflected in tamped down grass, which conjures their presence. And in those domestic places, the poet recalls the “rooms” made by children among the green world, the importance of such places of play and imagination and how quickly they’re swept away.



To reach the good field-edges for first berry picking,
cross Elk Creek and climb up through crab apple and crack willow,
treat gingerly the old ragged lines of barbed wire
              knotted into trunks, buried in weeds.

Cut through the fallow fields and stand
in the oval-shaped deer beds tamped down in chest-high grass.
Follow the thin, riverine trails that lead from bed to bed.
              Like the rooms we make in childhood—kitchens hidden

beneath a forsythia bush, sticks scraped clean-white
for candles—this domesticity gets swept
away by a light rain, marked only by a depression in the grass.
              Hardly domestic, really, but leave a stem

of something aromatic, thyme or sweet basil,
some indication that you passed through here and thought
of the deer, not nervous or dead at the roadsides,
              but up here with clouds and stars, with spiders
                            and birds, asleep or dreaming in their own careful beds.


That was “Whitetail” by Abby Minor.

Hear more episodes of Poetry Moment at

Music by Eric Ian Farmer.

Todd Davis is the 2022-23 host of "Poetry Moment" on WPSU.