The title of this book refers to furry skin on the antlers of young deer, which most shed as the antlers ﬁnish calcifying. The titular poem mentions some whitetails that don’t shed their velvet, described by hunters as “raggedy-horn freaks” who live “long solitary lives, unweathered / by the rutting season.”
There are moments in this collection that felt too ﬂorid for my taste; I appreciated the more everyday, banal poems — about going to the barbershop and not getting gay married. But I enjoy the animalistic nature of Johnson’s work, where a “child is a little lion cub” and a “mouth is stretched panther-wide,” later someone else has a “dogged smile.”
I loved a woman who curated loss.
She was a sculptor. After we had parted
in rage at the corner of 16th and Dolores,
after our old bed frame slid oﬀ the car roof,
splinters ﬂurrying down I-80, after I’d moved
thousands of miles away, she called to ask if
she might build out of sugar cubes a replica of my house.
She said, for herself, she needed to see it
but didn’t know the measurements.
I cannot explain my consent
that evening, alone, at home,
the yellow tape unspooling, I measured closet widths,
calculated the feet between hedges—
I wanted her to craft it perfectly to scale.