we heard the
sound of barking -
that pheasant hunters prize -
quartering, flushing, marking.
wolfish hunger in your eyes
through the rows of trees,
hens on either side.
switchgrass whispering at my knees
skyward, and they died.
by Timothy Murphy
Dakota Institute, 2011
The essence of autumn on the northern plains of America, and North
Dakota in particular, is bagged and brought home in this
collection of hunting poetry.
a preface to his work, the poet explains that hunting has taught him
accuracy of observation and, as a writer, accuracy of expression. Both
skills are effectively employed in poems like "Missouri Breaks":
blooded dog quarters the feral rye,
my body's long quarrel with my mind
silenced by a landscape and a sky
as a Bible for the blind.
Hunter with Pheasant and
by Ortega y Gassett's Meditations
on Hunting, gifted to him by his
father, Timothy Murphy feels "the killing of the game is a ritual
preparation for our own mortality."
In "The Blind," the poet describes an outing with an aging father:
some ancestral code
and sons don't break,
each carry a load
which we cannot speak.
we commit our dead
the unyielding land
broken windmills creak
stricken ganders cry.
the dog, and I
learning how to die
our feet stuck in the muck
our eyes trained on the sky.
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