Alan Harnum


What is it like to live here? The documentaries
    you've seen do capture something; I think

The Herzog's best: least sentimental, those slow-motion
    shots of fewmets falling to a Bach cantata.

"Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme"; that is to say,
    "Awake, the voice is calling us". My friends and

I would sing, for years afterwards: "Awake, the
    deershit's falling on us", because it is a hazard.   

But the deer's reality, the sheer length of their
    legs truly does not come across fully on film;

How long, those legs, how thin, how the delicate
    bodies stilt ten stories as adults, and how

They bend to eat the greenery new laws require be
    grown on any building taller than five stories —

Debated hotly at city council, but passed by narrow
    margins with added subsidies for small business.

Nearly all who live here know to drive with care, for
    the deer's legs are near-invisible at speed. Others

Know less caution, but most accidents with the long-legged
    deer involve visitors. It is a terrible sound, when one

Falls screaming with a shattered leg, and the police have a
    special squad. Another thing the documentaries do not

Capture, that even the rawer gloss over, is that many
    of them survive the fall and must be put down by humans.

Myself, I'd do away completely with our roads. This city is
    not only ours. The deer were here long before us, if not

Forever. And we are many, with our many cities, and they
    have this one only; no, no one really knows why this is.


I've never seen it directly; I,
    like others, have gone down with
headphones underground, past a
    rationalized gurney, to police
and fire unspooling yellow tape,
    and retreated before them.

I've felt the system ripple, ridden
    buses harnessed to service, given
up and walked. I've heard the voice
    reversing east and west, as though
the sun might backward that whomever
    body, that impelled euphemistic

A personal injury only, an island
    faulting itself into the trainface.
There is only the individual, the
    commission; to announce alternatives,
manage our commuting wrath, story the
    system healing around this palimpsest
of traffic.

Alan Harnum is a former librarian who writes poetry and software in Toronto. His poems have appeared previously in Unlost Journal and FreezeRay Poetry.