Jim Harrison's Poem Brutish

501 Words3 Pages
Folly, poet Jim Harrison’s little black spaniel, hung around his place with a blue Kong chew toy, oblivious to the fame of writer seated next to her. Harrison’s 50 years of writing have earned him comparisons to Faulkner and Hemingway. “You like a mister,” he said to the dog. “She thinks that all people who come here come here to see her.”
I’d come out from Los Angeles, having asked Harrison if we might spend some time birdwatching around his property. He loved birds, and they show up often in his writing, as in the final lines of the poem, “Brutish”: “I’ve chosen birds and fish, the creatures / whose logic I wish to learn and live.” But when Harrison found out that my girlfriend worked in Hollywood, his attention turned away from animals,
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“Right on the lawn last year,” Harrison started, slow and deliberate, taking time between clauses to fork and chew, and just to breathe. “I saw a mother and daughter mountain lion kill a subspecies of white-tailed deer called a Coos.” The story about the animals in his yard, like many of Harrison’s stories, eventually bled together with related memories into a kind of epic nature narrative. “The deer kept jumping up and the lions would go up after it and haul it back down.” After the lions kill the deer, a “discouraging visual” also witnessed by one of his nowdeceased dogs, a lab, we’re on to a rattlesnake, and another dog, his beloved setter. After a snakebite, “her heart got improbably large,” she died, too, and Harrison “went to war,” carrying a
“pistola” on his walks, and hiring a professional snake catcher to kill thousands at his Montana property. “Folly,” he said, turning to the dog by his side, “The arts are a cruel mistress.” He slid a copy of his latest book of poems across the table, cracked open to the title page, which he had
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