top of page

from Wild Kin

Aja Couchois Duncan

Wil . der . ness


old English




land inhabited by





wild dēor


     seasons before the doe was part of, a rangale, dregs

    of an army, who would want such a thing, old french to middle english

    its main body, a migrating herd, she followed them hundreds of miles across

    the spring green into the foothills where the herd stilled, bowed their heads

    and began to graze, but she couldn’t stop, not there, not yet, so she kept moving

    following the river basin until spring turned north turned winter

    ice windswept across the rocks and the cries of something buried

    barely audible beneath

    the frozen derma

birdsong and windswept

what mornings have come to without

anchor, so easy to slip past the borders

of consciousness, to move between

lucidity and its twin, the one who

told her losing her cellular

structure was a miracle

or could be


so much easier unwrapping sleep, stepping onto the same

cold bedroom floor, hearing the incessant hum

of the refrigerator, listening for birds, for that tick

in the walls, for that moment when one falls into day

to life and doesn’t question its presence

the dogs rise, stretch then search for someplace

to settle their fur in a house

that is perpetually shrinking


amidst the forest woodlands and sagebrush

wind, river, fir and aspen cling

to the steep mountainside

willows pour downstream

the doe finds herself here but longing

for the crumbling peaks of limestone

chickadees and meadow voles

goats and muskrat, the stalking lynx

kinglets with their yellow flames of hair

where is everyone, she wonders

and bows her head to the moss and ferns

a blanket of green foliage

an insect’s nest


the fly lands on her flank and drops its wings

burrowing into her fur until flesh it pierces

her skin sucking blood for hours until pregnant

it drops into the muddy banks of a pond

and the cycle continues all over her body

lipoptena feed on her as they have fed

for thousands of years their remains preserved

in mummified bodies amidst alpine glaciers

since the age

of stone

wild eyed, that’s what midnight said

calling ancestors who’d lost their spirits

crying for recompense, what can be healed

across generation, all night she wanders

amidst the network of dendrites hoping

to synaptically alter the wilderness

of her mind

bottom of page