Thursday, February 3, 2022

Observed In The Wild


Observed In The Wild
I found you first in the green evening
a secret burn of elongated lines
sketched into the mural of bending pines
by wind's unseen ink, traveling the trail
on an old scent caught in the bracken;

then the adrenaline snap
of your head my way.

You called me from my campfire
to answer the brown beg in your eye,
to fall beneath you like aspen leaves
at your season's yellow turn,
as my own summer died around me.

Pulled like gut to the crescent bow
of the reckless huntress, I chased you
through evergreen shadow, along bone-clean
clattered rockfall, dry creeks where
only the musk smell of hope drew me on

past the deadfalls and I would guess at your way
by the arrowhead and adder's mouth rising
in your wake. Too many years you ran ahead
to pleasure a dozen others who never
saw your winter,

but often when the itch was unbearable in
the time-crack of April's acid sun, you
came to me in the clearing, to rub the felt
from your horns on my shoulder and moan
my name like a sacrifice

low and heavy as the white bull
of Poseidon knee deep in the
sacred wave before the knife.

 February 2022

posted for earthweal's
Notes: Arrowhead (Sagittaria Latifolia) and the wild orchid known as green adder's mouth(Malaxis unifolia) are common North American wildflowers. Pardon the mixed metaphors of stag and bull which in time-honored fashion I ascribe to poetic license.You can read a quick synopsis of the myth of King Minos, his wife, the white bull sent him by Poseidon, its pursuit by Heracles and its eventual sacrifice by Theseus here.
Images: Pine Forest II, 1901, © Gustav Klimt  Public Domain
Head of a Stag, 1634, © Diego Velazquez     Public Domain


  1. Poseidon annoys me with his giving of a gift that, in true mythic fashion, he then feels entitled to mess with when it isn't used as he wished. (And I never have understood animal sacrifice anyway; it's the animal that does the sacrificing, all against its will. A strange, bloody, barbaric thing, to my mind.)

    But, to your poem. I feel almost out of breath myself after reading this chase. The third stanza in particular is stellar stuff--to put these things the way you did, with your skillful use of metaphor, is some dandy writing, Joy. And it continues with the bow in the next stanza.

    I may be way off from what you intend here, but this seems to me to be the original out-of-balance relationship. The pursuer is so ardent, so tireless, so undaunted by his quarry's obvious disinterest, and at the end, when surrendering is out of desperation and akin to dying, that's hardly a lover's dream. "I must have you, at any cost" seems to be the theme here, but then again, I may be off in the weeds here. I wonder if you are talking metaphorically about humankind's relentless pursuit of largely unwilling nature, even unto her destruction and death? Forgive my waffling, I am still mulling your fine poem.

    Lastly, I would not have guessed that was Klimt!

    1. All of the above interpretations are valid if that is what you see, Shay. My intent was to write about love as prayer, which is also hunt and sacrifice. But they are murky waters. Thanks for your generous reading and kind words.

  2. In human relations there is a sacred wild, anointed by the old gods with the whiffs of adrenaline and smeared blood as we find in this scripture deep in the heart, the place where we will every believe and grieve and believe. And what a wild in these words for rapture and sacrifice. The bull-man of the labyrinth is at the heart of our wildest nature, the one we evolved out of to the world's ultimate peril. Forget that dread relation and we're screwed, to paraphrase Emerson. Step into its shadow and the paramour sprouts horns. The tale here is its own labyrinth, where the way out is deepest in. Thanks for showing earthweal how woolly a poem out of a human mouth can grow.

    1. Thanks, B. My poems are always a bit woolly, to go with my brain. I wrote a poem very similar to this back when I was actually there, before I started blogging. You may remember it :

      I think I've uncovered something else here, which is always useful--all the things you mention, especially the believing and grieving and believing...its a trope for me, that chase and when I arrived at the end of it, because of my own failures, it changed everything. Like the myth, the forms of prayer and sacrifice matter--the god isn't ever going to settle for the thing you are happy to part with--he wants the thing you love most.

    2. Your 2010 entry of a 1987 poem was a tad before my entry into this poetry blogging fray (I started on yahoo groups and then myspace), but "The Wild Hunt" is "super-nice" as you put it, essential enough to your prime conversation. I've observed this spectral paramour many times in your poetry down the years. Primal and then mythic - so the myths accrete -- adding all sorts of mysteries to the raw gruel of history and yes, deepened into something more by all the necessary gambits and failures. There was a great poet on yahoo groups who was seeped in myths whose husband died suddenly, and her rage at her gods was intimate & terrifying -- that's what the god demands, the thing we love most ... Which in time becomes poetry, the trope we keep reiterating. For the gods wants to know themselves in us, as Rilke said. And so the poems become wilder. At least, that's my prayer, one that is deeply requieted in wild observations as this ...

    3. Thanks, B, both for going back to the first poem, and for your insights on both. (The super-nice remark is part of a running conversation Shay and I have about the general state of commenting in blogging.)The Rilke line is certainly illuminating, and I feel, true, even though I see the gods as interior rather than exterior forces. We have an insatiable need to know, especially perversely in an emotional frame, despite the limitations we have in our ability to do so, so we must always chase the mysteries in that wild hunt that is in us and of us, and also of that Other we chase. Thanks again.

  3. WOW! This is as wild as it gets. I love your opening lines, so green, loved the "brown beg" in its eye, and almost felt him rubbing his horns on your shoulder and moaning. The sacred wild indeed - green fire at its wildest. Always lovewly to see you at earthweal, my friend.

    1. And always good to be there, dear Sherry. Thank you.

  4. this is my new favorite

    i don't write very much about wilderness, despite the fact that is my favorite place in the world, mostly because i don't want to share those experiences with others, and i don't want to encourage others to go out into it, there is already too much encroachment, too much damage being done.

    but this is just stunning, this is exactly how the wild makes me feel. there isn't much in the way of "human" thought in this, just the animal mind. when i was younger i used to bow hunt, i gave up on rifle hunting because i didn't want to get mixed up with all the yoyos, this poem is exactly the way that felt, every image, very scent, every drop of adrenaline. it's perfect.

    this is my new favorite poem.

    1. I'm really glad you liked it, phillip. Like you I have *always*, since I was a young child growing up in the slums of Chicago, felt like I belong out there, in the wilderness, away from the depressing and even frightening(to me)cities. Because that wild place, and the deep need that drives the hunt are analogous for me, this poem is all about both kinds,the inner and the outer, and both hunts, animal and emotional, likewise. I am super chuffed you say it is your favorite.

  5. The wild untamed earth does indeed leave us breathless, both giving and taking at the same time. We become Other, which is our true state. Wonderful illustration as well. Wonder and fear, the elemental state.

    1. Thank you. I always enjoy reading your work also.

  6. I love the layers of this, and the many different interpretations it offers, Hedgewitch. Wild indeed!


"We make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric, out of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry." ~William Butler Yeats

Comment Moderation Has Been Enabled