Found: The Hunter, Poem by Jane Greer

It’s raining, spattering drops across the dusty road.  Walking, head down against the rain, I see a scrap of heavy paper stuck against a mailbox.  It’s wet and torn, covered with handwriting. It invites a look. Was it dropped, thrown away? I won’t know.

Curious, I bend to peel it off the mailbox. The paper is thick, but soaked and begins to tear. I let go and a sudden gust of wind rattles the paper off the mail box and is slaps into the street.  Suddenly it seems important to me and I don’t want to lose it.

I chase it, squishing through a puddle. This piece of paper better be good. It’s hard to read the cramped handwriting. The ink is not smeared, although the paper is soaked. The author is Jane Greer. Someone copied her poem carefully onto a piece of paper. I read it.

The Hunter

Deep in his muddy memory, something makes
A ripple on the smallest space of thick
and enigmatic water, something breaks
a thin stiff shaft of reed, grazes a stick
with wing or fin; disturbs the mist. He wakes.
The pre-dawn clamor in the fluent air
cannot drown out the subtle sound that aches
In his hollow cattail bones, and rattles there.

What could it be, this sound or rushing where
There are no wings, this snap of twig in rain,
Startling in the eye’s white corner, hair
Rising on the arms again and again?
Nothing. An absence: losses beyond repair,
Forfeitures, white arms that would not stay
Warm while he learned what early cold he could bear.
The sound he hears are the ones that got away.

—Jane Greer

Why did someone copy this poem? Did they intend to send it to someone? Was it a reminder? I’ll dry the paper and put it in my journal, a message from an unknown writer. Months from now, I’ll find it, read it again. Maybe it will spark something interesting. Maybe I’ll just read it again and again.

–Quinn McDonald is a writer and a certified creativity coach. She teaches journal writing classes, among other things. To see it all, visit (c) 2007 Quinn McDonald. All rights reserved.

8 thoughts on “Found: The Hunter, Poem by Jane Greer

  1. Finding Jane Greer’s elegant handmade book, Bathsheba on the Third Day, on my bookshelf, I went in search of Jane Greer via Facebook–which brought me here. Lovely to know you’re still…well, somewhere. Good thoughts to you today, and grateful memories of PPJ.

    • A handmade book–ahhhhhh. I’ve actually never seen the book, although I’d love to. I smiled when you went to Facebook first. I would have never thought of that–I found Jane 30 years after she wrote the poem. PPJ? Plant Pathology Journal? Pre-Party Jitters?

      • PLAINS POETRY JOURNAL (may flights of angels sing it to its rest). And the book was hand-printed by Harry Duncan’s Cummington Press. Being published by him a quarter century ago is still one of the proudest moments of my life.

  2. Hi, Quinn. I’m Jane Greer. A friend just sent me your October 8, 2008, post about finding my poem in a puddle, and it “saved some part of a day I had rued.” It’s an old poem, and I can’t explain why you found it, or posted about it, or how my friend found it, or even why there is such a thing as the Internet. But the world is VERY cool, isn’t it?

    • I am completely taken aback. I tore your poem out of the New Yorker years ago–easily 40 years ago. I have had it with me since then. I memorized it. I quote it in classes to show good use of tension and compact writing. I have mentioned it several times on this blog, hoping you would run across it. And now, finally, you have. I am amazed and delighted.

  3. Pingback: Words Make Art « QuinnCreative

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