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The Hunter

George Murray
From:   The Hunter, McClelland & Stewart, 2003.

The forest lies quiet immediately before the axe,
the desert gives up accelerating the wind.

Across the earth game birds and salmon go still,
deer and bison and hoary goats freeze instantly.

It is he who stepped on a lizard's throat and called it
a dragon, he who defeated a mountain village

and named it a kingdom, he who hung for a night
and bled song from his wounds, he who chases

the chariot sun across the sky and never catches it.
Let us retreat to a time of less and more sin, he says,

let us entreat our wives and sisters to birth monsters.
Let us return to the roots of our earliest prophecies.

As a fisherman he has cast his line over and again into
the sea, coming away with only Gilgamesh, Jonah,

Grendel. As a farmer he has set countless seeds
and nuts into runnels of earth and has only managed

to grow Nefertiti, Helen, Guinevere. As a hunter
his knife has run between the ribs of countless ermines,

grizzlies, and blue foxes, yet has never spilled
a drop of blood that wasn't that of Pythagoras,

Ptolemy, Copernicus. He is a man who would tip
the earth, sip from the edge of a continent

as though the sea bed were the bowl of a goblet.
Reincarnation, he tells us when we beg,

was removed from the list of reasons not to kill
when we reached the point of more people

alive on the planet than have ever lived
and died in all of history and story.
He moves

among us on his beasts, he travels the boar-runs
of the forest without the slightest snap

of twig or branch, he walks across the waters
of our moats and seas, slides between the cracks

in our window sills, lifts the sheets of our beds,
climbs our bodies to the throat

and lets loose springs of life to course down
the topography of our testament to living.

It is he who stands squinting into the blowing dust
and sand as though tired after a long chase,

he who looks upon us fondly as though
recently given over to love after years spent

in doubt, he who raises the standard
that bears an emblem none of us expected.

For consolation he tells of the buzzard
that has lit on his shoulder where a falcon should,

how he's forced to remind it constantly
with a mailed fist that he is still alive,

just barely. In this world, he says, everything will be
claimed by the sand. In this world we are

always wandering the desert. In this world the desert
is the Promised Land. In this world the Promised Land

is still just over the horizon. In this world,
he says,
drawing a blue blade with a shriek that runs shivers

up and down the mountain sides,
the horizon is what you see when you look up.

First published in Radical Society 30:1, 2003

George Murray's works copyright © to the author.

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