On the weathered front porch made with dense white oak

A covey of men sit

On wounded rockers, crates and an old porch swing creaking in the vast black night


They chew and spit and sip bourbon and branch, their

Coveralls and denim shirts soaked in sweat

Illuminated only by a small lantern against the wet August dark


They listen


Out there, through the pines, oaks, hickory trees

And the endless black air their hounds run and run

And run


The men, with eyes half closed in reverie

And ears wide open hear their dogs and speak

Their names nearly in prayer Jigs, Rattler, Honey, Prince, Buck


They know their dogs by their barks

Harsh, forlorn, joyful and mean

All running like they knew nothing else,

No other instinct save the

Perpetual motion, tongues-out pursuit of the scent, only the scent


Of the coon.


Blind in the big black night the men and the dogs are wed

By the dogs’ sounds and the men’s love

Now they hear their dog, excited with the nearness

Of the panicked, furry coon running under the summer moon


For its life


The barks, as if from a crowd of desperate men

Echo through the Virginia woods

Now loud, now soft, now finally with satisfaction

As the dogs crane their necks and spring on tight back legs

Up the crusty pine tree

Sending through the sightless woods to their masters


“We’ve got him.”




John Thomas Wood