My father strides ahead of me.
His khaki cap is all I see,
beside the barrel of his gun.
We’re hunting upland quail that run
from us in loose community.

The way is one that he knows best:
zigzag downhill through scrub forest
toward a catch-pool where birds might drink.
Young, quick to fire, I want to think
a few small kills define our quest.

But this day’s outing is on loan
against the days I hunt alone:
an arc of years, an ocean crossed,
the old ways of provision lost,
the quick objectives up and flown.



Solstice Week

Red morning on a dark horizon—
of what rough stuff will next year be?
What course of moons, discord, loose lips,
scutt work, whored dreams of dynasty?

We fumble through an almanack,
schedule to fetch and utilize,
one column scored by sore desire,
the other ticked for compromise.

Our expectations ink new darkness
down the page, until dawn lifts.
Above the flat displays of night,
in sunlight, all perception shifts.



After military service William Conelly took a Masters Degree in English under Edgar Bowers at UC Santa Barbara. Unrelated work in research and composition followed before he returned to academia in 2000. The Able Muse publishes a collection of his early work under the title UNCONTESTED GROUNDS. It may be reviewed at their website or via Amazon. Retired from teaching as a dual citizen, Mister Conelly resides in the West Midlands town of Warwick, England.

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11 Responses

  1. Court Reinland

    I remember fishing and hiking with my father in the Gifford Pinchot and it felt like this.

  2. Sally Cook

    My mother was mostly raised by Indians while my grandfather was busy building his hotel, so she knew a lot of the old ways. While she taught the neighborhood boys to fish, I was left home to read poetry. It was the same thing, really. All of that is now being lost.

  3. Joseph S. Salemi

    Hunting has always been a mark of aristocracy in Western culture, as well as a symbolic enactment of the triumph of the superior man over savage beasts. This is why the liberal-left hive is always in a buzzing rage against any kind of blood sport.

    There is one fault in this nice poem — the use of “forest” in line 7. Since all the other lines end with a heavy masculine stress, the reader naturally tends to place the ictus on the last syllable (“for – EST”), which is awkward and unintentionally funny. You don’t want that in a serious poem. I’d suggest the following rewrite:

    The way is one that he knows well:
    Zigzag down through vale and dell

    And begin each line with a capital letter, as is standard in traditional English verse. We don’t imitate modernist fakery here.

    • C.B. Anderson

      Until I read your comment, Joseph, I had intended to write one of my own about the rookie mistake of trying to rhyme a stressed syllable with an unstressed one, but you have it covered. As for the desirability of initial capitalization for each line, I think that that is good advice, but I believe more strongly that it’s the dealer’s choice. Convention, after all, is only convention, and may be adhered to or broken with, according to necessity or the author’s predilections. Your suggested rewrite was excellent, and I sometimes wish I could pass all of my poems through your exacting filters before I send them off to discerning editors.

      • Chtistopher Flint

        But then the “quest” line must also change. It would need an -ell rhyme.

      • Joseph S. Salemi

        Then end it this way:

        “We’ll find our prey through sight and smell.”

  4. Christopher Flint

    Your very touching sentiment is extremely well expressed. I agree with Mr. Salemi that you might want to consider strengthening your meter and rhyme in these two beautifully descriptive lines:

    “zigzag downhill through scrub forest
    toward a catch-pool where birds might drink.”

    For example.. they could read:

    “traversing scrub where wings might rest
    at catch-pools to alight and drink.”

    That sort of change makes “downhill” implicit, which is somewhat weaker, but it preseves most of your description and I think gaining consistent meter and purifying the rhyme is a trade-off worth considering when everything else is so well wired.

    Your lament is a verse in any case that will reach a lot of folks, especially those who are aging and trasplanted in one way or another.

    Nicely done!

  5. Paul A. Freeman

    The brevity and the clips of imagery of your poem leaves a clear impression, Mr Conelly, of 19th century Scotland – to me, at least.

    Another suggestion on the talking point lines, if you’ll forgive me:

    “The way is one he’s (we’ve) often made:
    silently (zig and zag) through wood and glade
    toward a pool where wildfowl drink”

    The above loses the relative pronoun ‘that’ and the helping verb ‘might’, but I do like ‘zigzagging’ (‘zig and zag’ would be a good blood pressure raising alternative) and ‘scrub’ – ‘raid’ could then replace ‘quest’.

    I also liked in the third stanza how you spanned the years and put the moment of time in context.

    Thank you for sharing this

  6. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    William, I love this atmospheric and nostalgic piece… the beautiful closing couplet has touched my heart and misted my eyes – the sign of a very good poem, indeed. Thank you!

  7. William Conelly

    Thanks for the comments, one and all. Every poem I’ve composed, over the years, has been a learning process and ‘Hunting’ stands out among them. The first two stanzas depict a personality ‘quick to fire’ (and hence forego one of the rules of classical composition) while the third — assembled literally decades later — encompasses and accommodates a personality become more aware, both of self and structure.

    That ‘Hunting’ has drawn numerous comments and ‘Solstice Week’ none, I believe, validates that depiction. Of course it underlines the timeless nature of revision as well. — WmC


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