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
ripples.
 
 
    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.
 
 
    Blemishes.
 
 
    Inglories.
 
    Vague figures, in a howling wind, and with no notion of
perspective.
 
 
    Of countless ruined worlds, he would appropriate the
essential emblem. Wall struggling with wall, shadow with shad-
ow.
 
 
    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,
“Verily!”
 
 
    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)

Discover this poem’s context and related poetry, articles, and media.

Poet Keith Waldrop b. 1932

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

Biography

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 . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

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

Report a problem with this poem

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.