Sunday, 18 November 2012

Sunday Poem

And I’ve unleashed the dogs, out of season,
on days so hot all solids seemed to rise
from a quantum and kindled crux of yeast.
Slipway boats venting through unseasoned gaps,
paint roughed to a barm and the blisters
of green balsam rupturing on contact,
until my hands, drawn tight with a flexed mesh of sap,
hardened like two heels of bread. The gun dogs,
tongues loose, would spring on a hot scent
as though to free their paws from ground frost;
hound voices shattering the heat so completely
a dazed sun straggled a moment to piece
the light back together again and regain
its train of lumbering thought. And somewhere
from the understory, a snowshoe hare
would harness that great mutant heart in its chest
and slingshot into naught. I’d wait for the dogs
to circle, wait for their yawps and gutturals
to set borders as far as their voices would carry,
wait beneath spruce and birch boughs hung
with the curve of a boat’s bow or the arch
of a nave infused with stained light. There’s a point
when a beagle turns a comer and changes
its voice from pursuit to driving forth, when the sound
tugs a drawstring at the burlap of your nape,
when persistent dogs swing to push home,
when they close the distance and nutshell the time
left to reckon with the headwind of a bark
that assembles its mass and leaps as four paws
from a camouflage of brush. Always willing
to start over, go further than need, the hounds
would drive a hare down the burrow of a muzzle
without fear, without shying off. I’ve felt
the gun dog’s turn without a weapon in my grasp,
in the absence of prey, at times and in places
where no dog ran, or was, or had a right to be:
when I loitered in dark corners and put flame
to a glossed patch of gas at the crossroads station,
when I woke in a sub-zero bus shelter with hair
cold-bitten to the hard floor, when I steadied
my father who leaned too far to one side
three days after the first of his brothers died.
Other times, like standing with a lug wrench
in a fog-clot on the isthmus with the hazards tripped
or when my first Selected Frost split
at that place in the bind where “Birches” starts.
It's surged in the circuit and called me out
when I’ve missed the point or burned it black,
when I’ve holed up in a corridor of sound
just to feel the echo swell and contract.
From Gun Dogs (2009) by James Langer. 

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