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Summer 2016

Actaeon's Hounds

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And then I wasn’t myself anymore. A heaviness
branched from my head, not like thought, or worry,

but solid, forcing upward, pressing against my brow,
wedging itself between me and the world. The weight

swung with me when I shook my head, clattered
against a limb above. Nothing could dislodge it.

And the woods thrummed as though a skin had broken
from over my ears to let in what had always been muffled.

Wind wrestling through the pines. Branches mourning
against each other. The skirring slang of birdsong.

Everything thrilled and fretted into new sound.
Even the dogs rushing through the far trees, I heard it all—

footfalls, twigs snapping their faces, one dog breaking into a bay,
then another. My dogs. I knew them. Loved them.

And I knew they would know me, dogs I once
stroked mindlessly next to the fire, though now I had no hands.

Dogs that tilted their ears when I spoke their names,
that came to me when I called, that recognized me

even when I stumbled against them in the night. But now
those names I’d once slant easily into rhyme, into song,

into endearment, slipped sideways, beyond me,
shadows flitting illegibly through the woods.

And a scent ached the air, honing itself, sharpening.
They were coming. I meant something else to them—

flesh straining against teeth, a hot wealth of blood
pouring free. A drive to please the men who hounded them

to the hunt, calling and calling their names.
A hive broke inside me, its panic spilling, clouding

through me until there was nothing I could say,
and I tilted the points racked above

against every name I once had known.

—Corey Marks

Corey Marks is the author of Renunciation and The Radio Tree. He teaches poetry at the University of North Texas.


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