Thursday 5 November 2015

2 Poems by George Kalamaras

I Thought Hound.  I Thought Sorrow

I thought of the hound and sorrowed for her.
Perhaps I sensed her swampy, backwoods breed.
Paranoia was part of my makeup.
It had dogged me through too many earth scents.
Like a willow’s shadow stung by the moon.
Perhaps I thought the hound and sorrowed her.
The first abdominal segment in ants
is fused with the thorax.  What did I know
of slipped-speech grief?  Of a baying beneath
what the earth ceased to be?  I created
myself in the image of the earth’s death.
How all things thrive, even when—good—they live.
Perhaps I sensed a paranoid part break-
ing up in the worn gutters of my throat.
Say my mind drifts too much just one more time.
I will exile you to Galápagos
outcrops on the banished turtle’s back.  Hounds,
when driven mad with tracks, sense something left
just for their abandonment.  The coonhound
in the photo has a pleasing, pleading
expression.  It has more to do with want,
not need.  We all need to be touched and loved.
And we want the great ocean of boiling
broth our blood makes in the presence of dogs
who give us ourselves in the ambered brown
of their eye.  I thought hound, I thought sorrow.
Sometimes joining two independent thoughts
with a comma calls to mind the first wolves
and the campfires we made to cull them
into our lives.  What do we know of slipped
flaks of earth asking the coon tracks tree-ward
on the long climb to being stuck?  The hound
sees the hawk and marvels the air it drinks.
Let’s say my poems don’t track straight narrative
lines.  Let’s say you find them campfire cold,
not worthy to curl up against when wind
enters your bones and drives you to please please
plead for emotional release.  Stand up
straight.  Go ahead and carve your initials
into the shagbark of a hickory.
Let the juice of the mulberry release.
Sorrow your words just right. See what they need.

All That Feeds

                      Based on a photograph of nine-year-old Michael Nabors near the black 
                      and tan coonhound and her nine puppies he found in the hollow of a tree 
                      near his home in Webster Groves, Missouri, 1949

How she knew to find a tree hollow, only the moon can say.
Perhaps she swallowed a star from the damp ponds in a sassafras root.

Sometimes, we are guided by what we cannot see.
I remember King Kong, 1960.  The next fifty-five years, avoiding the dark roarings of
     my mouth.

Nine puppies says we mustn’t wander far from the milk.
Numerology can sometimes be practical, other times a slake of sawdust in the ear.

Was she surprised when the fifth one arrived?  And the seventh?  The ninth?
What of her body?  And the blood?

Did she tongue them and lick them dry, piling leaves around them?
Chew the umbilical cord with an instinct that said, We must eat all that feeds us?

In Webster Groves.  In a woods we can barely see.
In 1949.  Or ‘50.  Or the year known simply as, I-must-somehow-keep-them-alive.

Little hound-self giving yourself unto the world.  Galaxy-bound and brown.
I would possum and coon and shiver-tree my mouth.

I would keep you just as you are, sixty-six years late.
Praise be the mother of god spelled backwards in the backwoods of Missouri.

That sweet Nabors boy who found you as a neighbor next door?  How did a nine-year-old
     find precisely nine puppies in 1949 in the hollow of a tree?
It is like riding my tricycle down three cement stairs when I was three, and three stitches
     in my forehead just over my third eye.  In Chicago, a name with three syllables,
     beginning with the alphabet’s third sway.

Sometimes we wake and holler and all abrupt.
Sometimes we words and leave out as we monkey-bar the night.

The blood and slush that passeth all understanding moves nutrients from here to there
     through the kind, cruel blood-light of the cord.
Urges a tree hollow into something wiggling, whimpering, and full.

Beautiful little hound rounding out my blood.
Perhaps you swallowed a star.  Perhaps the star ate you.


George Kalamaras, Poet Laureate of Indiana, is the author of seven books of poetry and seven chapbooks, including The Mining Camps of the Mouth (2012), winner of the New Michigan Press/DIAGRAM chapbook contest, Kingdom of Throat-Stuck Luck (2011), winner of the Elixir Press Poetry Prize, and The Theory and Function of Mangoes (2000), winner of the Four Way Books Intro Series. He is Professor of English at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, where he has taught since 1990.

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