Poetry at Sangam



THE DOG IS NOT DEAD by George Kalamaras


The dog is not dead. Everything is dead,
from snail shells to the part in your hair
you recall from fifth grade photos.
There are not even Namibian fire ants,

horses on the take from some blue grass
ranch. There might be an ugly idea
stuffed shut in the insect’s mouth. Or wormed
in the annals of hound dog lore bawling

all the way up from the Ozarks. Say the radiant vista
of fear is the poet’s complaint. Say prophesy
is the death of doves in a doormat’s design.
Welcome. Come in. Go home. It is enough

that rows of cabbages complete chaos in their tightly wrapped
leaves. That order is a turkey buzzard slapped onto the back
of a white-maned horse. Give up the dead. Grant the living an expanse
of sin. When we were young, our bodies were beautiful.



So it is we were once alive. The time you called a column
of smoke by the name of crime. So it is to waste
a hopeless fireplace on a room in which it does not belong.
Even the wind-beaten voice of the hound tries to beat back
egresses of the night. The night, the night. Seized
by impossible mouths. If I was right, I’d be
best. If my language could drift into the vulva
of a sow, something cleanly born might be
born. My words are words. Possible puncture wounds
and their hymn to the seventh galaxy. Come in, we’ve been waiting,
the hounds seem to say, as if all the dead ones
stuffed in dirt now thrived. So it is and was and were.
This time, even our hands grow wise.



In the land of hunting, there is order in the vanished
mob of men. Let’s say the photo is real. Let’s say
the hunters have spent the day seeking out lost parts
of themselves. Let’s say the dogs knew it all along,

bawling and bracing about the scree. To hold a good hound
is to hold salt in the left hand, empty shotgun shells
in the right. To kiss your hound dog, bring him into your bed,
is a way to sleep your slept away. There is joy in the sudden sad

of how and why and things might be. Skip a word, any word,
and the deck of cards tumbles down into all the alphabets
of the world. The apricot on the table expels a ghost.
Everyone thinks the beautiful mist on Lookout Mountain

resembles a Chinese T’ang Dynasty landscape about to die
from the seizing hold of a book. If I held a photo album
of carrots, would you accuse me of loving only the color
orange? Whoever sooths a soothsaying word

seeks comfort in the abstract nature of the hunt, where one letter
changed reads hurt, where something goes out in search of some
and thing and not-of-this-world. It will kill you, if it can. A word
can hurt or heal. Be in the world or greatly grow your pain.