Poetry at Sangam




Based on a photograph—“Litter-ally a Queen”—of the beagle, Queenie, who gave birth to nine pups with the then-shortest recorded canine gestation period of fifty days (the average being sixty-three days, and the previous record having been fifty-five), Wheeling, West Virginia, February 19, 1954


The inside-out of light. You feed
a long tradition of food.
Hunt the rabbit and make the meat.
Cut the jugular of the freshly killed
so the flesh won’t spot. There is a blood
socket in the eye of a possum.
I’m not really sure which lies to live.
What mouth to do? How shall I fail?
You’ve had the courage to die as if it were life.
Breathing from all your skin.
We should all finish what we parted.
This from that. One from
the mother. Go after the lie we always dreamed
obstacle. With all that hobbling. Sound.
With all that mouth. Stuffed and.
Stuck. I don’t want
to tell it again. I am
going back to the way words leak.
Pup by pup. Stop by stop. Month by
mouth. I don’t want to be away
from my mouth. Your mouth. And all
the in-between. What words we say,
we say. What births we birth,
we do. Even if only after
fifty days. Even if the gestation
of grief grounds words
down to nine squirming
sleeps. Whenever you start something
you should itch in it. Sense the epidermal
lush. We’re just going to have to put
the path behind us. The yesterday
voice. The breathing in and
in. The breathing out
and loud. Of memory. Of days gone
gold. Like the dug-struck ore
of a mouth-speak
surprise in our own best sound.
It’s the full courage of hounds.
Autumn leaves and all that ground.
Say a dog-day way.
Say nine pups rather than nine months.
Say womb-full and split and lick.
Don’t tell me how sore your tongue.
Don’t luck of it and sung and sting.
I’ve got a hound ear that says say it right.
Here, let me drag my silk across the buffalo
grass of beautiful human demise. Let me swamp
and mud and shift. From boy-child
to hound-man, it’s as if all the dogs I might
could-should. Let me swamp
and mud and stink. Don’t sour down
my tongue. Don’t suck of it and spit.
Drag your beautiful you across the empty
of my chest. Somebody whisper that, please,
through the navel, far into one day more
than forty-nine moons setting
in the womb. Gave birth to and maybe and
speak. Oh, the little hound is long dead
sound. Baying to me now
from 1954. Snout to ground, ground
to scout. Through the kenneled
and woodsy more. Mother
to each tiny dust-storm
mouth. Like Marx into Bakunin into
Kropotkin into all the indigenous
dead across the whirl. The white man knows how
to make everything
, Sitting Bull said,
but he does not know how to distribute it.
A litter of hounds cooperatively rips
into mother’s milk. Slushing enough
to one day tear out
after rabbit and squirrel. How all animals
live in us, where they lie down
their death-life as earth’s urge.
Gone wet to their toes and dew claws
and slink. Gone wild
in a frighteningly tame way.
Breathing from all their skin.
Breathing through all your skin.
Had it not been for the sustaining force
of bitches’ milk, there would be failure
and there would be depth. Had it not been
for words flung into possibility. Nobody
has ever died
, Takahashi wrote,
in his poem, “Death.” And he meant it,
as he stroked the speckled under-throat
of a sparrow decades later
on his death-mat. This is not
a Zen koan
, he assured. Fly with me
now into cloud-come Mount Fuji
. Like this photo.
Like this hound developed
in the extreme climates
of black and white. Forever locked
in the path. Of possum.
Of coon. Of the thrill of the runt
of the litter it births
unto the world. How tiny
can be tough. How small,
sound. 1954, a long life
away. Oh, little beagle-hound,
let me risk sediment-ality and stir your long-urged
earth with the swaying hound ear
of my word. Spoken as dust as must as
dumb-struck through the ether,
mucked and stung and slung.
Only fifty days from there to here. From here
to everywhere at once.


(This poem previously appeared in Talisman.)