The Dubose and Dorothy Heyward Society Prize
Just as dusk blunts the desert day’s blade of fire
and the sun-glazed sand’s glare dulls to a painless
plain of dun dust, soft as smoke, I walk once more
toward that red stone bluff at whose base the traders’
tenuous trail unravels like a soiled shroud,
and stand there watching until I tire
of the horizon’s vacuous stare. The stars appear,
not singly but in sudden gusts, like hordes of crystal locusts
hungering for the darkness the way some men lust after God.
I spit from thirst. A small bell tolls in an owl’s mouth.
The night is a well whose arid depths the heart sounds
like a wind-scoured pot-shard a child drops to pique his fear
by prodding thus deliberately the sullen beast
of his immeasurable solitude. Enough.
I rise and return to our pale tents tethered
to this shifting earth like ships on an ebbing tide.
Again, she has not come. Again the bed I lie in
fits me like a grave. My father’s hand is at my throat,
and I wait with dry, unblinking eyes to be released.