Deer hunting season began for Mainers Oct. 30. For those coming from out of state, the start was Nov. 1. Hunting of any kind is something I have mixed feelings about. I’ve never shot a gun and have concerns about killing animals and our attempts to “manage” game animals. Nevertheless, I know the role that hunting plays in Maine culture and believe it is a legitimate way to secure food for your family.

Hunting is also a very social act. I read recently about an 8-year-old who shot his first deer. He had experienced hunting with his extended family, his parents, his sister and his grandparents. That event — bagging the first deer — is significant for young boys. In a way, it’s a rite of passage. I remember when I was teaching in Albion and a boy came in late with blood dried on his fingers and shirt, more animated than I had ever seen him. He’d just shot his first deer and helped to gut it. I got him settled and he wrote the best story he’d ever written about this life-altering event.

Ken Craft also started hunting young. He notes, “As a young man, I joined family and friends in Brooks, Maine, to go deer hunting. I enjoyed the social aspects of getting together, being outdoors, and reading by the woodburning stove each night as much as the actual hunting.” It’s a common way for young men to enjoy the Maine woods and sometimes that’s much more important than shooting the actual deer.

It was memories of those trips Ken took that inspired this poem. It’s an intentionally ambiguous poem, one that lets the reader decide what happens. Ken says, “To some, it details the moment before a hunter pulls the trigger; for others, it’s about the moment a hunter decides not to pull the trigger.” I know how I read it. I wonder how you will.

Maine poet Ken Craft is from Wells and the author of three poetry collections, most recently “Reincarnation & Other Stimulants” (Kelsay Books, 2021).

Trigger

by Ken Craft

This is where I held

my breath —

a stand of red pine,

needles and snow dust

scribed about my boot,

cold crescent

resisting a swollen

finger itchy-numb

with November.

 

This is where a buck

held its breath —

mouth mid-meal

amid the mast,

a single line

of berry drool

spiking the fur

of his white and

wild-cherried chin.

Judy Kaber is Belfast’s poet laureate.

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