Poem of the Week | August 15, 2016

This week, we are excited to offer a new poem by George Kalamaras. Kalamaras, former Poet Laureate of Indiana (2014-2016), is the author of fifteen books of poetry, eight of which are full length, including Kingdom of Throat-Stuck Luck, winner of the Elixir Press Poetry Prize (2011), and The Theory and Function of Mangoes, winner of the Four Way Books Intro Series (2000). He is Professor of English at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, where he has taught since 1990.
 
Author’s note:

This poem is from a recent manuscript of mine about hound dogs—beagles, bluetick coonhounds, redbone coonhounds, and others. While I love dogs in general, I’ve always been particularly fond of hounds. They are such no frills, working-class dogs. They equally love trouncing through the leaves on an autumn day and lounging on the sofa by a fire. The genesis of this poem was to come at hound dogs as the hounds they are but also as a spiritual presence inside the psyche of the speaker and, because of this, a source of words and language helping us come to know and make the world.

 

The World as Hound Scent in Wind

 

There was the hunter’s hound,
the howl from its mouth.
We saw it, became it, fed
it deeply within. Ourselves,

 

so still. So, in the stillness of Indiana
night, the trees of Portugal
and the trees of Borneo,
shaking, entered my soul—

 

though the old man teaching me Tennessee
told me never to use the word soul
in a poem unless it was lit from within
by an outward facing wind.

 

The black wind of the animal.
The Indiana wind of the hound.
And the winding wind of my voice.
Please, I say and said and say again:

 

let me sleep. So there were lanterns. Many-
voiced. A kerosene lamp thrown as lightning
strike against an elm in the swampy
dark, a wick the size of my left shoe

 

as it stepped in step with the struggle-
strut of my word. I hear
it, heard it, smell it. Red
as the most bled. Sap of this tree or that.

 

Broken in the backache of what our words
work, bending, blurring wind-break of breath.
In wind. In the Indiana woods of my voice.
In the wind, here, from the other side of the world.

 

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