The Ghost of a Hunter

By Keith Waldrop b. 1932 Keith Waldrop
He reads: What soul suffers in secret, the flesh shows openly.
    Deep within, in a region hardly accessible, a bold self-image
sends messages of bloodshed and conquest, which reverberate in
his heart of hearts.
    [I forget which hand is writing.]
    He does not doubt that he exists.
    The five senses have left their mark on him. It is a record of
what has happened to him, but he cannot talk or travel until he
finds a body of water.
    A man who has lived on reindeer’s flesh amuses himself with
    In this cage was once a nightingale. In the echo, new words
for wind.
    The usual convulsions, and a green cat. And, after all, months
or years are nothing to him.
    [My image contains his body.]
    His body contains bodies.
    Vague figures, in a howling wind, and with no notion of
    Of countless ruined worlds, he would appropriate the
essential emblem. Wall struggling with wall, shadow with shad-
    Thousands of miles a day.
    He gazes across an unguarded cemetery—gazes idly, waiting
for new equipment.
    As through a fixed window, he finds a kind of space, the
visible world foreshortened.
    He does not see deeply, but—still—one thing behind another.
    He keeps a tiny bird, folded like a sheet of paper.
    Twice two is four—still—and a circle has no angles.
    Body sheds shoulder, jaw. However body may appear, the soul
comes back in scars.
    [There are no dead. Only names.]
    Too close, ruin wrinkles the surface—his breath bothers
reality. The sun pours down. The pots are mended.
    An unfolding, from where it is all contained.
    The ships have been salvaged. [I do not know what body he
has in mind.] Clothing is resumed. Temples are rebuilt.
    “Which body?” we inquire, while all the liars cry out,
    As though all this were in the dark.
    Here is a column of soldiers, a heap of apples, an avenue of
trees. Here a swarm of bees, of birds, a row of equidistant lines.
A set of unequal objects distributes the field of vision.
    Here is the painted world in an actual image. [I have no
theory for the clouds he sees.]

Keith Waldrop, "The Ghost of a Hunter" from Analogies of Escape. Copyright © 1997 by Keith Waldrop.  Reprinted by permission of Burning Deck Press.

Source: Analogies of Escape (Burning Deck Press, 1997)

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Poet Keith Waldrop b. 1932

Subjects Living, Coming of Age, Growing Old, The Body, The Mind, Activities, Jobs & Working


Keith Waldrop, who was awarded the 2009 National Book Award for poetry for Transcendental Studies: A Trilogy, has been a prominent voice in American poetry for over forty years.  He is the author of over a dozen books of poetry, prose, and translations. With Rosmarie Waldrop he co-edits Burning Deck Press.

Waldrop was born in Emporia, Kansas in 1932. He enrolled in the pre-med program at Kansas State Teacher’s College, but his . . .

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SUBJECT Living, Coming of Age, Growing Old, The Body, The Mind, Activities, Jobs & Working

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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