Coon Song

by A.R. Ammons

I got one good look
in the raccoon’s eyes
when he fell from the tree
came to his feet
and perfectly still
seized the baying hounds
in his dull fierce stare,
in that recognition all
decision lost,
choice irrelevant, before the
battle fell
and the unwinding
of his little knot of time began:

Dostoevsky would think
it important if the coon
could choose to
be back up the tree:
or if he could choose to be
wagging by a swamp pond
dabbling at scuttling
crawdads: the coon may have
dreamed in fact of curling
into the holed-out gall
of a fallen oak some squirrel
had once brought
high into the air
clean leaves to: but
reality can go to hell
is what the coon’s eyes said to me:
and said how simple
the solution to my
problem is: it needs only
not to be: I thought the raccoon
felt no anger,
saw none; cared nothing for cowardice,
bravery; was in fact
bored at
knowing what would ensue:
the unwinding, the whirling growls,
exposed tenders,
the wet teeth–a problem to be
solved, the taut-coiled vigor
of the hunt
ready to snap loose:
you want to know what happened,
you want to hear me describe it,
to placate the hound’s-mouth
slobbering in your own heart:
I will not tell you: actually the coon
possessing secret knowledge
pawed dust on the dogs
and they disappeared, yapping into
nothingness, and the coon went
down to the pond
and washed his face and hands and beheld
the world: maybe he didn’t:
I am no slave that I
should entertain you, say what you want
to hear, let you wallow in
your silt: one two three four five:
one two three four five six seven eight
nine ten:
all this time I’ve been
counting spaces
while you were thinking of something else)
mess in your own sloppy silt:
the hounds disappeared
yelping (the way you would at extinction)
into–the order
breaks up here–immortality:
I know that’s where you think the brave
little victims should go:
I do not care what
you think: I do not care what you think:
I do not care what you
think: one two three four five
six seven eight nine ten: here we go
round the here-we-go-round, the here-we-
go-round, the here-we-go-round: coon will end in disorder at the
teeth of hounds: the situation
will get him:
spheres roll, cubes stay put: now there
one two three four five
are two philosophies
here we go round the mouth-wet of
what I choose
is youse:

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