They were already dead when I took an axe to them, those true
bone extensions of his skull. He was in hard horn — a full, broad
palm on display, tines curved strongly upward, symmetrical as a
six-pack. Immense, and somewhat fascinating, they had become
cumbersome, superfluous structures that hindered his progress
through the forest; over-burdened like a knight with too many
accoutrements — layers of leather and chain mail, heavy helmet,
steel plates, long-sword, scabbard and shield. My buck in velvet
was sensitive and protective, delicately turning his head sideways
between trees, and I was tired of picking up after him, snatches
of fabric snagged on saplings or strewn on the forest floor, though
one year I did fashion some into the most exquisite pair of shoes.
Destined to decorate a gatepost, to be a trophy, a museum piece or
a bridge over a rivulet, they were useless to him even as a weapon,
their sharp points unexposed even with his head bowed right down
between his forelegs. To save him the gigantic effort of maturing
a new pair, I soldered the wound shut. And they didn’t go to waste.
I up-cycled them. Antlers make wonderful buttons and necklaces.
It’s such fun to embellish and polish them, like you would ivory.
My prize possession is a Baton de Commandement which fastens
dresses, straightens arrows and smoothes leather thongs. I even
sling spears with it. I really thought I was doing him a favour, until
last night, when I dreamt an Irish Elk rise from a dawn-white mist
and those spacious ornaments looked so singular, and so beautiful.
Second in The Dromineer Poetry Prize 2016: Judge Collette Bryce