Register Sunday | June 16 | 2019

Hunting in the South

A poem

Like anyone would
            I went out with them.
The invitation interested me,
To hunt, with a gun, in the South,
            And I thought, by the way,
Never pass up a chance to look on.

We got there. Pretty well drunk,
            All the people were rich folk,
My son was with me, taking it in:
Cartridge pockets, pants, boots
            Are antique finery for such
As him, I thought. Then the gallon
            Tanks of blood
From the kill of the year before,

Those we unloaded and opened.
            Smeared the deer blood on:
Faces and hands, all red,
And a hard smell to it. The rich
            Enjoy any ritual, strict, and waste
Never a moment before
Glugging the liquor down, scooping
            Blood from the tank; soon
Nothing is white but the eyeballs.

Into the woodland then we strut;
            Me, I observe bird calls
As well as the angle rifles are at—
Best when the barrel is up.
            Some of the plumper folks
Puffed in the undergrowth,
            Oh, and sonny along with us,

Most of us felt pretty spry
            And I saw the deer suddenly,
Mine, arched in the air,
Aimed and shot, the bloody
            Faces were beaming around me:
Dead as a doornail the deer.
            My bullet had gone slap
Clean between the eyes. Luck,
            I think. The pelt, velvet,
No, but its throat was, and ears.

All day out there, on we went,
            Shooting a lot, and sipping.
Blood on our skin dried up.
Men’s bodies, I note, smell sour
            At lunch, in their togs;
Squirming through thickets, what
            Dummies we are, I thought, and
A whisker away from running
            This hell of an organized country?

Just a whiff of gladness then,
            And it got to me: the difference.
God knows, we could be hunting me.
These painted heads popping out
            From somewhere in the deep
And crawling wilderness of mind,
They did as the unshriven
            Spirits do: to hog the power
We living wield, first they mimic us . . . 
            Soon they’ll feast.

                        Stashed in the trunk
My animal. The boy had joined it.
            I gave those church-goers a half-
Hearted salute, called it a day.

Late that night I looked in on him,
            In his bed, my son.
All evening he’d sat and sulked.
Asked how he’d liked his first
            Real hunt with grown men.
All he could say was: Well, dad,
That deer, in the air, did you
            Happen to see it was beautiful?
He did not want to touch my hand
            When I tried to take his in it.
Now I see your face, says he,
            I want the blood off it.