On a photograph by Lillian-Yvonne Bertram

Guest blogger poet/photographer Lillian-Yvonne Bertram decided to write about a visual image, a photograph, rather than a poetic image.

boy-in-headlights-dressing-a-deer

I keep coming back to this photo I took of this boy, a boy I didn’t know, doing the bloody and intimate work of slaughter. What can I say—this is a picture of a boy gutting a deer. They call it “dressing a deer” but what’s the difference, why not say what happened? He pulled the guts out of a deer and threw them over the edge of a ravine. Using the light from his car’s headlights, he used a knife to cut off all the meat that he wanted—the leg meat, the tenderloins, the flank—and put the meat into a black plastic garbage bag that he tossed into his trunk. In all he left with maybe 50-60 pounds. As he cut off the chunks of meat he kept apologizing for how long it was taking him and for how badly he was doing it. He was, literally and figuratively, butchering the process. His cuts were poor, leaving too much meat on the bone, not getting a clean piece of steak. He confessed it was his first time doing it by himself, that he would get better with time. He was frustrated and embarrassed almost to the point of what seemed like tears. In this photo he is pulling out the trachea. It is slow tough going, to butcher an animal. The trachea came out with a pop, and after much tugging. He was sweating by then. It too went over the ravine. When he was done, or as close to done as he would get, he dragged the entire carcass by the legs and threw it down the ravine. That was where all the carcasses went, their bare bones clattering. Covered in blood he said he needed to call his mother, that if he didn’t call his mother after he went hunting she would get worried.

(This image appeared as a special postcard insert in an issue of Saltfront. For a larger image, click on the photo.)

 

Lillian-Yvonne Bertram is the author of But a Storm is Blowing from Paradise (Red Hen Press 2012), chosen by Claudia Rankine as winner of the Benjamin Saltman Award; a slice from the cake made of air (Red Hen Press 2016), and personal science (Tupelo Press, forthcoming). She teaches at the University of Massachusetts at Boston.