Rabbit Hunting Day

Rabbit Hunting Day
draft 4

straddling the culvert, a baby blue ’57 F150
gun rack arms skeletal

the smallest Carhartt scarecrow, snatched
by barbed wire, grunts across frost-
crackled grass tinged gray washed sky

a path wailed wide by banshees
woven shut by black whipstitch tails

hunger a rhythm pulsing
fingertip to trigger dew-damp cold

click, cock, warm cheek, grain-ridged stock

NASCAR rabbits, streaking fast circles,
checkered flag snapping
fragile bone in fried flesh

Barbie’s dreams housed
with tail fluff scatter pillows


So I had this assignment to write a poem of no more than 15 lines that was all, or nearly all, images or imagistic. If you’d seen the two-three page discursive narratives I’d been turning in, you’d know why. This is what I came up with, or an earlier draft of this, anyway. But now I’m thinking about Ellen Bryant Voigt’s four categories of types of images from her essay “Image.” (I have a long summary of it in another post if you are interested.) These are:

1. pure detail (those concrete nouns from the “poem as camera” folks)
2.description (nouns with describing words that make them unique, specific to the poem)
3.figure (figurative language, such as a description of Medusa having “hissing hair”)
4. dramatic – images that carry and move the emotional weight of the poem, that create its dramatic structure, that make the connection between mind and body)

In trying to make my poem better, I’m thinking about which of these categories I use, and how I use them. And, as always, how to understand what she meant by real-life, real-time application. A quick analysis:

type 1, pure detail—baby blue ’57 F150; barbed wire; grain-ridged stock; checkered flag snaps; snaps fragile bone in fried flesh

type 2, description— smallest Carhartt scarecrow; straddling the culvert (describing pick-up truck); warm cheek; streaking fast circles; fragile bone; fried flesh; tail fluff scatter pillows

type 3, figurative language— gun rack arms skeletal; snatched by barbed wire; frost-crackled grass tinged gray washed sky; path wailed wide by banshees; woven shut by black whipstitch tails; hunger [is] a rhythm pulsing; trigger dew-damp cold; NASCAR rabbits

type 4, dramatic images—ok, here’s where I have something to figure out. An image becomes dramatic, I think, not by whether it is more descriptive or figurative, but by what emotional weight it carries in the structure of the poem. So, in this poem, the descriptive image of the rabbit-tail pillows in Barbie’s dream house takes on something else. In fact, it takes on the entire emotional weight of the poem, which it might not be able to carry. It is something about gender, about the domestication of violence, and about how hunting was part of the fabric of life where I grew up, not just a sport. And the figurative description “hunger [is] a rhythm pulsing,” sitting where it does in the middle of the poem, the pivot point from the field towards the kitchen and house, must be a dramatic image, especially in the way it introduces emotion and motivation into the poem’s landscape.

Interesting, and logical, to have dramatic images at volta and close. But I still don’t think the closing image works. Or maybe the image does but the lines or syntax don’t yet. It just doesn’t feel strong enough at the end. What do y’all think?

Carhartt scarecrow

Carhartt scarecrow


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