Friday, January 22, 2010


by David Baker

Then a stillness descended the blue hills.
I say stillness. They were three deer, then four.
They crept down the old bean field, these four deer,
for fifteen minutes—more—as we watched them

in the field, in the soughing snow. That's how
slowly they moved in stillness, slender deer.
The fourth limped behind the other three,
we could see, even in the darkness, as it

dragged its right hindquarter where it was
hit or shot. Katie sat back on her heels.
The dog held in his prints, or Kate held him,
hardly breathing at first. Then we relaxed.

Blue night descended our neighbor's blown hills.
And the calm that comes with seeing something
beautiful but far from perfect descended—
absolute attention, a fixity.

I say absolute. It was stillness.

In the books we gathered, the first theory
holds that the condition's emergence is
most common at age eight, if less in girls
than boys, or more vividly seen in boys
whose fidgets, whose deficit attentions,
like little psycho-economic realms,
are prone to twitches-turned-to-virulence,
anxieties palpable in vocalized
explosions—though now we know in girls
it's only on the surface less severe,
which explains her months of bubbling tension,
her long blue drifts and snowy distractions.
I say distractions. Of course I mean how,
clinically, tyrosine hydroxylase
activity—the "rate limiting enzyme
in dopamine synthesis"—disrupts, burns,
then rewires her brain's chemical pathways.

Let me put it another way. After
twenty-four math problems, the twenty-fifth
still baffles her, pencil gnawed, eraser-
scuff-shadows like black veins on her homework.

It's not just the theory of division
she no longer gets, it's her hot clothes, her
itchy ear, the ruby-throated hummingbird's
picture on the fridge, what's in the fridge, whose

socks these are, why, until I'm exhausted
and yell again. Until she's gone away
to her room, lights off, to sulk, read, cry, draw.
No longer trusting to memory, she

writes everything in her journal now, then
ties it with a broken strand of necklace.
Of her friends: I am the funny one. Mom:
She has red hair and freckles to. Under Dad:

I have his bad temper. I know. I looked.


In one sketch she finished, just before we
learned what was wrong—I mean, before we knew
what to call what was wrong, how to treat it,
how to treat her—she captured her favorite
cat with a skill that skips across my chest.
He's on a throw rug, asleep. The rug's fringe
ruffles just so. The measure of her love is
visible in each delicate stroke, from
his fetal repose, ears down, eyes sealed
softly, paws curled inward, to the tiger lines
of his coat deepened by thick textures
where she's slightly rubbed away the contours
with her thumb to winter coat gray. He's soft,
he's purring, he's utterly relaxed asleep.
One day, before we learned what was wrong,
she taped it to a pillow on my bed.
Terry Is Tired she'd printed at the top.

How many ways do we measure things by
what they're not. I say things. Mostly her mind
is going too fast, yet the doctors give her,
I'm not kidding, amphetamines—

speed, we used to say, when we needed it—
Ritalin, which wears off hard and often,
Adderal, which lasts all day though her food's
untouched and sleep comes late. The irony

is the medicine slows her down. She pays
attention, understands things. The theory
is, AD/HD patients "aren't hyper-
aroused, they're underaroused," so they lurch

and hurtle forward, hungry for focus.
Another theory says the brain's two lobes
are missized. Their circuits "lose their balance."
One makes much of handedness—left—red hair,

allergies, wan skin, an Irish past . . .

We watched four deer in stillness walking there.
Stillness walking, like the young blue deer hurt
but beautiful. In her theory of
division, Katie's started drawing them—
her rendering's reduced them down to three.
She has carefully lined the cut bean rows
in contours like the dog's brushed coat. Snowflakes
dot the winter paper. Two small deer stand
alert on either side of the hurt one
leaning now to bite the season's dried-up stems.
Their ears are perched like hands, noses up, tails
tufted in a hundred tiny pencil lines.
She's been hunkered over her drawing pad,
humming, for an hour. So I watch. I say
watch. I ask why she's made the little hurt
one so big. Silly. He's not hurt that bad,
she says. She doesn't look up. That one's you.

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