Poetry by Paul Shaw

Canebrake Delta Land

From the banks of the Yocona River to the canebrake delta land,
To the camp house on Steel Bayou where the old bear's race began,
Where thickets hide your vision and damp air takes your wind
There's a hundred miles of paradise for hunting dogs and men.
Though many years forgotten and a decade dims their names
And levees cleared the timber and progress claimed the game,
The lives of Long John Cullen and Ike McCaslin, too
Are rarely understood by the likes of me and you.

The Mississippi Delta ain't what it was before
And the hounds don't run screaming squalling bears, anymore.

Miles of mud and rutted roads through woods that hid the sky
Wagons creaked and cracked with cold as they went slowly by.
All to their destination riding bent through frozen steam,
To hunt the one they would not kill, and few had ever seen.
Their lives spent in searching a thick and tangled hell
The refuge of a giant bear and those that knew him well.
The great ones like Paul Rainey with twenty-seven hounds,
Only two returned alive, and Rainey ain't been found.

The year of 1914 when drought left it all dry
Fires raged and thickets burned as smoke filled the sky.
Those with axe and turning plow, and progress on their minds
Took what was left of paradise, now towns are all you find.
But somewhere in the corners where clearing blades have missed,
The voice of Long John Cullen can be heard through morning mist
And hounds of ancient hunters and tracks of long dead men
Are sometimes seen a-runnin' a giant bear again.

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