LETTER TO JAY FROM BOULDER
Strange how the body felt in childhood. Clumsy. Abrupt. Shining a flashlight into the palm of my hand, I was fascinated with the gloss of my own young blood. Homeric shaman journeys among the Shades. Anglo-Saxon war rhythms merging with the Chinese Book of Songs. Excuse me, but an oedipal interpretation of Emerson neglects the transmigration of human souls from India into the body of a Boulder osprey. In other words, Jay, I am in Boulder among Tarot readers and transients. Followers of the great golden crow. In other words, the world is almost round, even when square. Even when lost among clasts of the Flatirons.
You lived here once, though spent most years in Littleton. I recall coffee at the Trident on West Pearl. Your four o’clock beard, as if you’d just woken at three from a turbulent night of Vallejo. If I asked you the weather, you’re sure to say Ritsos’s blind mother squatted over a beer bottle on the island of Samos. If I asked after your health, you’d say she buried the birth-bag inside the bodies of mites. It is all an experiment, this thing called living. Pigeons fend down through us. Satisfactory light for plant growth may be replicated in a lab, if at least close enough to a source. Possums, hardy and large, are normally kept in a cage outdoors.
Mary Ann and I come to Boulder for the pizza. For healing and books. To remember what it was like before I gave my life to raising hounds and working to finally grasp the almost-glimpsed in Stevens. Sun seeps down through hens’ teeth here. Through us. Our throats incline the wealthy slide of copper gutters refusing thieves.
Before we met, Jay, I knew you inside the color green. A wolf tooth, worked loose, corroding inside the carcass of an elk. I saw you once in the posture of pines about to accept Boulder County rain. I saw you in the letter A, in every index ever booked: Vicente Aleixandre, Antonin Artaud, the Alkali Flats all Wyoming wide.
The best thing published in the last ten years, I swear, is a memoir by a horse fly that spent eighteen months inside the left nostril of a Mustang. Poor horse could barely gather breath. The fly droned on and on about a tiny thermal trembling and a vague inside light.
It still hurts to examine the palm of my hand. The way blood flows from here to there. The scraping back and forth of complex births.
Shaman journeys among the Shades, Jay. Your four o’clock shadow. A plaza in old town Albuquerque crawling forth the owls. Afternoon bells at a Kansas hanging. Juarez, Mexico, and its endless trains. Their stutter-shove throughout the night, complaining the track.
It all seems so simple. This moving from here to there. Even successful culturing in a lab depends upon the tiny tremblings of leeches being released.
(for Jay Griswold)
LETTER TO TOM FROM STOVE PRAIRIE
If I asked the way to the Pawnee Buttes, you might say the Cooper hawk’s glance, the
barn-sad dance of the owl.
If I misspoke the “old” and “new” me, you might gently correct, Look at the way north in
our blood, brother, always points blue true to starlight.
We come into this life, Tom, with many scars. Even a little rain can hurt.
Sheep scab, for example, is caused by a microscopic mite whose entire life cycle—from
emergence from the egg to laying its own—is only three or four days long.
It is enough that the world comes in fragments upon the eye.
A group of horses, for example, might surround us in the pasture with both a lumbering
forgiveness and a bad case of croup.
Clear the throat.
Cough a goldfish fin back out onto the hanky.
Coffee at The Junction thirty-five years ago, and now we agree: sex with a weeping
willow is definitely a bad idea.
Let me remind you that cycles of procreation are inexact. The Wyoming toad is believed
to have inhabited the Laramie Basin since the last ice age. Today, only 100 adult
toads remain in the state.
Among famous Wyoming horses, Dapple Dan—the gorgeous gray from Company C—
was the only army survivor of the Fetterman Fight near Fort Phil Kearny in western
The window of breathing can be narrow. Our gallop and its lather—the hard-pound
ground—only a hatchet-sway away.
Sheep can only be dipped safely three or four months a year.
I see ewes in Stove Prairie, consider bands of them north near the Big Horns, their coats
peeling in chunks, exposing vulnerable underbellies. Their miserable scratching
against outcrops—even against each other—spreading the disease.
Still, they continue to graze, uphill rather than down.
The way words bump into one another. Our breathing. Thirty-five years in the aching.
(for Tom Delaney)
George Kalamaras, Poet Laureate of Indiana (2014-2016), is the author of fourteen books of poetry, seven of which are full-length, including Kingdom of Throat-Stuck Luck, winner of the Elixir Press Poetry Prize (2011). He is Professor of English at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, where he has taught since 1990.