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In the thick brush they spend the hottest part of the day, soaking their hooves in the trickle of mountain water the ravine hoards on behalf of the oleander. You slung your gun across your back in order to heave a huge grey stone over the edge, so it rolled, then leaped and crashed below. This is what it took to break the shade, to drive the beast, not to mention a thrumming of wings into the sky, a wild confetti of frantic grouse, but we had slugs, not shot, and weren't after their small meat, but the huge ram's, whose rack you'd seen last spring, and whose stench now parted air, that scat-caked, rut-ripe perfume of beast. Watch now, he runs, you said, launching another boulder, then out it sprang through a gap in some pine, brown and black with spiraled horns impossibly agile for its size. But, yes, he fell with one shot, already an idea of meat for fire by the time we'd scrambled through the scree. And that was all. No, you were careful, even tender, with the knife-work, slitting the body wide with one stroke then with your hands lifting entire the miraculous liver and heart, emptying the beast on the mountain. Later, it rained, knocking dust off the patio stones. Small frogs returned from abroad to sing in the stream beds. We sat and drank. The beast talked to its rope in the tree. And then you spoke: no more, you said, enough with mourning, then rose to turn our guts, already searing on the fire.
"The hunt described here took place on a remote Greek island, where all events ring with elemental significance, and where a violent encounter with the landscape is more likely to break the deepest things open. My poem works in conversation with another poem of unforeseen discovery: Robert Frost's 'The Most of It.' In 'Driving the Beast,' I acknowledge the debt by incorporating Frost's own ironic monosyllables (his poem ends: 'and that was all'). I think that line also led me to employ the 4/9 syllabic pattern, which now sends my poem tumbling down the page." —Christopher Bakken
Christopher Bakken is the author of Eternity & Oranges (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2016). He directs writing workshops in Thessaloniki and Thasos, Greece, and teaches at Allegheny College in Meadville, Pennsylvania.
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