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The Starkey Flythe, Jr., Memorial Prize

Aly Goodwin
Spartanburg, SC

 

Field Pilgrim

Today I hold the mandible of a gray wolf

dead twenty-five hundred years, freshly

dug from a foot of Swannanoa River mud.

Someone brings a gorget and four bone beads. 

It’s an outrageously blond May morning,

          blowing and sudden.

                    I am a field pilgrim.


As a child years ago in Abbeville I decimated

a field at Fig Farm in one spring afternoon,

picked early jonquils by geometric progression.

Where stems bunched thick I snapped by two,

then four in quick succession, the last by eight.

Each stem popped off clean but with a voice

like sharp so that by mid-afternoon I felt drained

while sap dripped from my hands to elbows,

sticky lifesap, slimy and clinging,

this lifeblood of the tender sentient buds,

lifeblood pooling on the wilted flowers

in a fallow field become slaughterhouse unaware.


Months after, it caused weeping in my sleep

only I didn’t know why, then.

Many nights after, I slept with a light.


          I do so tonight

in a lean-to on Vanderbilt’s field,

surrounded by ancient sherds.  I wonder

what slumbering Conestee Paleo-Indian artificer

                    we’ve roused.


I wonder what we’ve disturbed.