Okay, so it’s not morning anymore. Still, I thought this day needed a little poetry action. My choice: Joe Wilkins’s “Then I Packed You Up the Ridge Like a Brother on My Back.” It’s the featured poem today over at Poetry Daily.
I am not a hunter. I have nothing against those who are, so long as they act respectfully and conscientiously. Take a drive down I-40 at night and you’ll understand the extent of the deer overpopulation in these parts. I’ve just never felt the urge to take a life. I leave that to other people.
Which is why this poem held my attention. It presents the act of hunting – something distasteful to me – in a way that is accessible and beautiful. The intrusion of man and gun into the forest, the violent act of taking a life, here exist within the natural order, are integrated into the constant ebb and flow of life in the woods.
For more info on Wilkins’s memoirs and poetry, check out his webpage.
“Then I Packed You Up the Ridge Like a Brother on My Back”
In the blue dark I followed the ridge
toward the pines.
In a bowl of sage and dry grass
soft as the throat-hairs
of something small,
I lay down.
The sun was a long time coming,
the earth bloodless at my belly.
I waited and watched the river.
I was very still. You know how it is—
the stars closing their bright mouths,
the dew a gift on your lips.
You did not see me,
or my rifle,
blue as the dark. I saw you
step from the willows,
give your nose to the black water.
And you were beautiful. There is so much
blood in a thing—
yours welled up from the clean hole
I made in your heart and steamed
on the river stones,
and some washed down into the river,
where it swirled a moment,
and became the breath of fish.