Dale Wisely: “The Woods Unbounded”

The Woods Unbounded

Late at night,
you park your pickup
on a dirt road, deep into
Old Man Caldwell’s land
and you let the dogs out
to run in the woods,
and chase the scent of foxes

for miles and miles

while you sit on the tailgate
and drink coffee from a thermos
and talk to your father

in the night chill.

Your only role in this hunt
is to listen to the dogs bark ecstatically,
sweet and faint as an echo

so far away

You marvel at how far they go,
but always inside some
instinctive perimeter, so that
you can just barely hear them
if you are as quiet

as the stars themselves.

Finally, you blow a homemade bugle
made from a hollowed steer horn
and the dogs, hearing the long note,
allow their loyalty to overcome

desire to continue the chase.

The distant barking stops.  You wait
until you can hear the dogs running through
the brush and then they burst through the foliage
just down the road,

returning, as they always do, to you.

And so to friends
whose much-loved dog has died,
I am left to say, only,

the leash now is off;
the cage, open;
the scents, rich;
the companions, many;
the woods, unbounded.