The following interview of Allen Braden by Lois P. Jones originally aired on KPFK Los Angeles (reproduced with permission).
Biographical Information—Allen Braden
Allen Braden is the author of A Wreath of Down and Drops of Blood (University of Georgia) and Elegy in the Passive Voice (University of Alaska/Fairbanks). His poems have appeared in textbooks such as The Bedford Introduction to Literature, Poetry: An Introduction, Literature to Go, Spreading the Word: Editors on Poetry, and in magazines such as Virginia Quarterly Review, The New Republic, and Orion. He teaches at Tacoma Community College.
First Elk, 1939
There’s Al Knoll and O. L. Hesner next to the carcass,
my father at eighteen and Uncle Tillman farther off.
Julian Sommers too, odd-man-out in a raccoon coat
more accurate for downtown’s Post Alley
than somewhere above Devil’s Table in the Cascades.
This bull elk they bugled into range then fixed to the hood
of a Model A coupe was what the camera’s lens
had brought into focus and kept whole for over sixty years:
the seven point rack not yet hacksawed off
to adorn the bunkhouse back home in the valley;
the four quarters, the haunches and shoulders, not yet stripped,
soaked in a barrel of brine and cured for winter;
the prized teeth not yet gentled out of the jawbone
to pretty the watch chain of any pinstriped Mason.
Some, my father says, seem meant for slaughter,
for nothing but a slug in the head and a throat slit
to drain gallons of blood from the ready meat.
The occasion scrawled upon the picture frame is certain.
Otherwise the war would have revised the scene:
Tillman and Hesner on tour in the South Pacific,
uncertain whether only they were meant for beaches
strewn with shrapnel, wreckage and billowing smoke.
My father is, after all, no bigger than my thumb,
no more noteworthy than any of the others
except the camera captured the likeness,
for a moment, of the man he would become.
—from Elegy in the Passive Voice (University of Alaska/Fairbanks)