The Starkey Flythe, Jr., Memorial Prize
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
I wonder what we’ve disturbed.