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The Emperor’s Deer


Their noises make you think

they are crying or suffering.

They have learned to bow.

Even the fawns bow, centuries

of bowing

in their blood.

They are not considered wild.

Precious pests litter parks

with dung, take over the roads.

Sweet nuisance worth

saving, thinning these herds

is a last resort—once

a capital offense to spill

their endangered blood.

They are so used to humans, it is scary.


Our cries are heard as noise,

our suffering considered

natural. Native citizens,

we are not free

to roam or deemed sacred

like Japanese bowing deer protected

as messengers of the gods.

Nara, Japan is known for its temples,

shrines to peace.

America is known for its churches,

segregated Sundays.

This is not Nara, Japan.

Hunted, it is always

open season. The sight

of dark skin brings out the wild

in certain human breeds.

Bowing, hands up

or any other gesture of surrender

makes no difference.

They slay our young & leave them

in the streets, expect us to walk away

& wonder, after centuries

why we are not used to this—

grieving masses treated

like waste, filthy herds

thinned at will.


To be clear, this is America

& we are not deer

We are not deer

We are not dear


from Starshine & ClayFind more by Kamilah Aisha Moon at the library

Copyright © 2017 Kamilah Aisha Moon
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Four Way Books.

Published in Kamilah Aisha Moon Poems

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council, a State-based program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this (publication, website, exhibit, etc.) do not necessarily represent those of the Idaho Humanities Council or the National Endowment for the Humanities.