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  • Dorian Winter

The Moulting of Velvet Youth


A page from my sketchbook, an accompaniment to an unpublished poem "An Introduction to the Spinal Cord of the Elk"

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Antler velvet is an alimentary casing that can be seen on the antlers of bucks (male deer) which serves to supply necessary nutrients and minerals to the branch-like bone underneath. Such velvet is far more visceral than the kind on a smoking jacket, as it is a bundle of vessels, skin & hair latched onto young bone, which is in the process of calcifying and sharpening underneath.


Comparing oneself to the buck, what do you rid yourself of once you’ve grown up? Once those neurons trapped deep in your brain have finally calcified - what do you want to let go of? Is there a pleasure in letting it all shed, fall, and bleed out onto the ground of the forest?


April & The Buds of Youth:

You are just a fawn, and you notice two distracting lumps forming a weight on your head, between your ears. Small buds of soft bone are newly nestled. Like the rest of the forest, you are starting to germinate and bloom. Suddenly, your antlers are just as alive as the rest of you - they breathe, and bleed - you are the panting soil and they are your raincloud. You ask the sculpted bone above you, “Will I turn out alright? Will you help me grow” and the gush of affirmative blood comforts you. You will be yourself soon.


You notice that letting this nutritious velvet near anything is to your detriment, you are sensitive, easily scuffed, and easily deformed.


You are like a pile of dough nearing the cleaver. You are the cleaver. You do all of this yourself.


The Moulting of Late August:

A sort of pathetic fallacy, you notice that the river near your soft bed of grass is drying up. The half-damp soil and sharpened rocks are visible among dribbles of lake water, the ground is dehydrated once again. Now you feel parched. You are itching, you are hurting. You are looking around at all the other boys, and you’re feeling worried, you don’t feel man enough yet, you’re not ready to shed. You cry into the river “I won’t be big enough, I won’t be sharp enough”. The river is dry. The blood stops flowing to your antlers. You’re itching again.


The buck & the woody shrub are mortar & pestle. He is a skull-shaped bowl of wild berries crushed by the hand of himself. He is too impatient to let the red curtains fall down his face and body, so he takes to the sewing scissors of nature. He becomes the needle, he is a garment of his own making. You’re growing up, you tell yourself. There is blood on your face, neck, and back, and it is all yours. It is the blood of yesterday, it is the blood of the boy you were.


This crown on your head is now a stained marble, a weapon of the body and your ending youth. You notice the other bucks looking at you, you’ve always been smaller than them, you’ve always bled more than them. It’s okay. You are sharpened, and your antlers are swords and machine guns.


December and the Feast of the Rabbits:

One day, like the wobbly canine of a 7-year-old, your alabaster antlers fall off, onto the grass, near the river (which is filling up with water again). You’re not alone either, all the other boys are shedding this weaponry, they don’t really ask you about it anymore. You wonder why you worried so much about it.

The rats, rabbits, and faeries are hungry for even just a piece of you. You are cake, blood, and protein and this part of you, weakened like a winter twig, is moulting itself away in the soil. Weeks later, you can’t even find the antlers of last year.


Welcoming January:

There are new buds on your pedicles. This time you decide to keep it to yourself.

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