So here’s something new: a poem. Poetry is linked closely to song and is believed to be older than literacy. I guess that would make it prehistoric. It was the vehicle through which history, tradition and culture were passed down orally before folks could write. Rhythm and the repetition of sounds made for easier memorization. I think it’s safe to say that poetry probably started while sitting around a fire and telling a story or explaining a phenomenon. Or maybe describing the sacred nature of something like deer, oak trees, water or cracking flames dancing in the cool night air.

It’s an art form that I very much enjoy reading. I like the old masters — Whitman, Emerson, Thoreau and others, but Gary Snyder and Mary Oliver are two modern poets every bit as talented in my opinion. All have helped me see the natural world and life as a human through new eyes.

This is one of my first tries at poetry. It’s scary. Poetry is writing laid bare but cloaked in symbolism. Poetry is also writing unchained. You don’t need to be crystal clear, like journalism, but you still want people to “get it,” though “getting poetry” is just as much on the reader as the writer. Actually, it’s all on the reader. Poetry doesn’t really have meaning other than that the reader gives it, and the author is never sure if the reader will give a poem meaning. That’s what makes it scary to write. It’s kind of like singing in front of a crowd.

I don’t like singing in front of crowds. But here goes…P21000751.jpg By Johnny Sain

Trickling through the mossy green, down
through grit and granite and sandstone.

Carving rock with with slow cutting ache, brown
as it tunnels through mountain and ridge.

Gurgling from sidehill opening seep
through knotted roots and chalky bones.

Enticed to the low from purple highs, steep
is the journey turning crystal at the bottom.

Turquoise pools and copper shoals pour
silver over onyx in foaming ecstasy.

An umber brute once an irresistible force
met with yellow and dams and control.

Chained and tamed with concrete and steel,
a slow red roll toward the salty bosom.

Yearning for cerulean home with tempered zeal,
striving for the deep and singularity.


A backup plan


By Johnny Sain

I reached a dubious achievement this deer season: more misses than kills, and more misses in one season than ever before. No advice, please. I’ve been slinging arrows for 28 years and have a pretty good idea of how I screwed up on all but one whiff. It got so bad I almost picked up a gun in November. Not that there’s anything wrong with gun hunting, but I’ve been a privileged man, blessed with places and time to hunt so I’ve stuck with archery exclusively for about 20 years. Petty pride is the only thing that kept a bow in my hand this fall, and, fortunately, the gods of the hunt took pity on me a couple of times.

But my fantastic display of ineptitude in the woods has left the freezer pretty skinny. This is a problem because we, my family and I, kind of have this thing about buying meat — we don’t like to. My options to avoid skinny freezer syndrome in the future include more deer hunting (Arkansas’s season runs through February, and I’m going  to hunt even more than I usually do, and I’ll probably be packing a gun during gun season), small game hunting (squirrel season runs through February, too, and then starts up again in May), more fishing, and farming our own meat (chickens, sheep or goats in the backyard).

More deer hunting is a given. It’s going to happen. I went back to the basics with archery practice and even wrote “pick a spot” and “follow through” on the riser of my bow. Squirrels are out until all deer tags are filled. The pound-of-meat-to-time  ratio skews too far toward deer. Same thing for fishing. You’ve got to make hay while the sun’s a shinin’, you’ve got to kill deer while the season’s in. Fishing can wait until late spring and summer.

I’m not above scavenging, either. If I hit a deer or witness a deer vs. auto contest, that deer is going in my freezer unless the