Ashridge Forest

Sometimes mist would swirl,
soften the darkness
as my father drove me
back to boarding school,
my trunk heavy in the boot,
headlights on high beam.
We hardly spoke, instead
we’d look for fallow deer
eyes shining, ears alert,
seeking out the freshest grass
in moonlit forest clearings.

Once we slowed,
stopped behind a car
to see a doe sprawled
on the tarmac, her eyes
a well of fear, her spindly legs
flailing wildly. Impossible
not to look as the ranger
aimed his rifle, fired,
the shot ringing through
that twilight wood,
cold and hard, the darkness
I had tried so hard to contain
slowly seeping into everything.

Vanessa Proctor

Listen to Vanessa read ‘Ashridge Forest’ (1:18).


Vanessa Proctor is immediate past president of the Australian Haiku Society. Her poetry has appeared in journals such as Australian Poetry Journal, Island, Meanjin, Meniscus and Southerly. Her poetry has also been carved in stone, printed on teabag labels and set to music.

© 2020