The Archibald Rutledge Prize
"I saw a little rattlesnake
Too young to make his rattles shake."
Archie walked around the fields on deer legs, wearing
High top leather boots that made him look taller,
A vest and a tie, and a cap for all-weather.
He was 60% backwoodsman; 40% professor.
When he held his mouth just so, he was a real
Geechee gobbler. Archie fit in; he was a natural.
He’d rub a stick across a short box, and the turkeys
Came running. He enjoyed the company of others,
But for solitude, he was grateful.
Archie had a legacy and a favorite chair.
Archie preferred the chair, where
He’d reflect on life and nature as if
They were the same things, like the aged oak
With its presidential label planted by a Negro
Who never sat at the table. Lord,
Archie knew his fare share of Negroes
And politicians. He preferred the Negroes
Archie nested in his chair when he got too frail
For adventure, when those old deer legs quivered
More than they leaped.
He outlived his wives; he outlived his children.
Life got quiet for Archie out there on the plantation,
Except for the frahnk of the Great Blue Heron.
The Santee echoed the call; it was not hers to keep,
A passage traced by its shadow across the