I’ve got good ones—hound dogs, that is—
that spend a lot of time counting corn.
At least when lost in the early-dusking hunting fields.
The sound of his voice broadens
the frost. Praising the grouse.
I could note the pure horizon
and cast aside the corn, extending it happily still
through the chest cavity of a fallen pheasant.
I have always liked the nose of it and clutch.
The hound dog nose. The way
a persistent hound actually lends
a more lenient oracular pleading. One learns
to fly like a fish, swim like a flake of fire
on the curve of a bird’s swoop, the Zen monk interrupts.
I pick my road through the woods.
See sassafras hollows. Tulip trees. Paw-paw.
Poison oak and ivy. One learns a great fascination
in the seldom-used dirt. The sun in the moon’s
sun is just too beautiful. Old snake rail fences
twist in their milk snake way. Chips of wood
shedding off. For me,
there is always the long drive
back home after the hunt
for myself. When I have read
my poems to thirteen people
near the banks of the Ohio. When I wind
through the night, I prove that I can speak.
Saying things back to the talk-show
radio host and his guests—offering words
I rarely say in public. How to keep myself awake
after the long drive south to the edges of Indiana,
where all we meet is buttonbush by the river
and a way to hide in the canebrake.
A bird in the hand is worth
a well-earned rest, the monk continues. And I am grateful
the radio includes the calming orange robe
of his voice. As if a shotgun, glazed in sunset,
sliced the sky and crippled a bird,
just missing the heart by less than an inch, inch and a half.
You’re right to favor hounds, a voice from the river
confides. They won’t go all setter on you
and point a bird that will only end up dead.
But what of the hound dog in my heart
cornering the raccoon in the tree
in my inner ear? There must be some way of jumping
into an excellent expression. And I don’t mean guilt.
Too much of that is pouring through me
from the crazy guy on the radio
who thinks might makes right.
He’s as clichéd as the death of the Roman Empire
is old. As the hides of elephants
dandling jeweled saddles all the way
from Carthage. I don’t know what else
to say. How else to put one word
in front of its mother. As a pouch of power.
A deep of beauty. A chest cavity
of crows. How to keep myself
awake on the long drive from everywhere
at once. Please: if you encounter a hound,
pet it for me so that I might also hear your voice
in the night. Yes, your touch
is that translucent. Like love.
Catching things sideways. Just as the moon
bobs there in the side-view mirror,
following me all night across
the quiet farmlands of Indiana.
And also through the long rows where nothing grows.
As if the moon, at my shoulder,
is there only for me.
Pouring into me. Through. As if I am a fluid
pool of water carrying it away, downward,
seeking the bottomlands where I might survive.
Where only the ditchweed and I might thrive.
George Kalamaras, former Poet Laureate of Indiana (2014-2016), is the author of eighteen books of poetry, eleven of which are full-length, including Kingdom of Throat-Stuck Luck, winner of the Elixir Press Poetry Prize (2011). His most recent book is Luminous in the Owl’s Rib (Dos Madres Press, 2019). He is Professor of English atPurdue University Fort Wayne (formerly Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne), where he has taught since 1990.