God Puts on the Body of a Deer


In stock

poems by

Rebecca Baggett

Poetry chapbook, 40 pages, $10 cover price

ISBN: 978-1-59948-273-6

Released: 2010



Rebecca Baggett was born in Wilmington, NC and was educated at Salem College, where she earned a BA in classical languages. She is the author of two previous chapbook collections, Still Life with Children(Pudding House, 1996), winner of the 1995 Looking Glass Competition, and Rebecca Baggett: Greatest Hits (Pudding House, 2001), and her full-length manuscript, Tree, Salt, Sea, has been a finalist or semi-finalist in several recent first-book competitions. Her work appears in numerous journals and anthologies, including New England Review, North American Review, Ms. Magazine, Utne Reader, Poetry East, andAtlanta Review. She lives with her husband in Athens, GA, where she works as an academic advisor for the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Georgia.

Rebecca Baggett’s strong collection God Puts on the Body of a Deer is often dazzling in its vision of the sacramental natural world. The voice in these lyrics is original, the imagery fresh and vital, the subject matter compelling (and sometimes amusing in its presentation of the aberrations of religious faith). Throughout these poems the poet emerges as a soul leaning, leaning toward the light.

Sarah Gordon


What I admire so much about these poems — beyond their engaging voice and apparently effortless craftsmanship — is that they show the struggle, the tension of spiritual yearning in a completely identifiable way. The vision that informs the poems never comes across as simple or easily attained. This tightly focused collection is gracefully written and full of hard-won grace.

Eric Nelson

Lorna Sue Cantrell, Singing in the Choir

Jesus was my first lover
and the best. Oh, not
that Jesus hanging back of
the altar — that one’s all
skim milk and Wonder Bread,
nothing to Him. I mean the Jesus
preacher told about the summer
I was fourteen: Jesus chasing
out the money changers. I’d spent
that summer shedding my cocoon
of baby fat, nerves scurrying
lizard-like beneath my skin,
and preacher’s voice came thundering
down the aisles, while I sat,
mouth agape, and let it sweep
me on. I saw Him rampaging
through the temple, swinging whips
to drive out sinners, the sinews
on His arms and legs standing up
like tree roots, His eyes striking
sparks where they lit. I saw
His fingers tighten on the handle,
knuckles raised, and I thought
of how it’d be to feel
those hands on me, to hear
that voice stripping me bare
and laying me out with nothing
left to hide me from His eyes.

At the end, I let them carry
me up front and, gulping tears
like wine, I gave myself to
Him. That night, I lay spread-
eagled on my bed, while the Holy
Ghost probed every part of me,
feeling those carpenter’s hands
reach inside me and twist till
something knotted there came loose,
and I cried, “Yes, Lord! Yes,
Lord! Lord, yes, yes!” jerking
like a catfish on a line. I never
had a man could match Him, never,
and before I married Raymond,
I tried plenty.

Sundays now, singing in the choir,
I don’t see Him dangling from the cross.
I’ve never liked that ending
anyway. Meek is what I am
at home, Wednesday and Saturday nights,
while Raymond does his old one-two,
and I stare at the water stains,
wondering how I’ll fix my hair
for work tomorrow. I don’t want meek
here. It’s up here in the choir I feel
my bones go soft inside, feel my skin
give off sparks like something wired,
while every pore spreads itself
for Jesus to come in. He’s no
lamb, like preacher says, no gelded
sacrifice. Not Him. “Oh, Lamb
of God,” the others whine, but I sing,
bold and strong. “Oh, Ram of God,”
I sing. “I come. I come.”



God Puts on the Body of a Deer

For one moment, our eyes met,
equally astonished. Fear shone
from Yours, and I knew then
that You are nothing like what
they told me, I knew that You
are wild and wary and nameless,
that Your heart trembles
at our approach, that You live
in our pity and love,
I knew that I will never
know You. You gathered courage
and leapt, white flanks
flashing. You vanished
into the dark forest
where I could not follow,
where I longed to follow.



The girl’s sleeves are rolled
to her elbows, her hands sticky
with dough. She pushes wisps
of hair from her eyes
with her forearm, yawns,
eases her aching back,
and suddenly the angel appears,
wingtips quivering,
shimmering like a dragonfly
in the light from the one window.

The angel names her,
his voice tender, merciless.
Mary gasps aloud,
fingers brushing frantically
at constellations of flour
scattered across her skirt.

There must be some mistake,
she wants to protest, flinching
from the messenger’s luminous face,
his fervent, adoring eyes.
You want some other girl.
Finer. Kinder to her mother.
Someone stronger, strong enough
to bear . . .

But already she has consented, altered,
speared in a shaft of light,

her breath surging in her ears
while something unearthly
stirs inside her. Already
the swept dirt floor, the rough-
hewn table, the clay pitcher,
beaded with water-drops,
the new-shaped loaves, still bearing
her hand’s imprint,
have receded,
distinct and distant
as if she had traveled as far
from home as Egypt. As far as that.

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