Poem of the Week | January 15, 2008

This week’s poem is “Freemartin” by Davis McCombs, which originally appeared in TMR 23:1 (2000). It appeared in McCombs’ first book, Ultima Thule, which was selected by W.S. Merwin in 2000 for the Yale Series of Younger Poets. McCombs’ second collection, Dismal Rock, won Tupelo Press’ Dorset Prize, and came out in October 2007. He teaches in the Creative Writing Program at the University of Arkansas.


In the fencelines it is already night, and so
not difficult to imagine that the shapes
moving there-the birds’ last rustlings to their roost,
a coyote deep in grass-are moving underwater.
Does the farm, at times like this, remember
the shoreline it once was, the hiss and spray
of that margin?  Night after night,
a low moon climbs the cedars on the ridge;
its pale light floods the bottomland, drifts
and pools and finds a herd of cattle wading
through alfalfa.  In breaks of cane,
the river dismantles an ancient masonry,
vast tides of limestone, the water cross-cutting
the buried currents.  A waxing smudge
of light floats across the ripples and eddies,
and yet it will not jar the bedrock’s memory,
or raise strange creatures from the stone.
Night itself is like stone, an aggregate
of twitch and spark that hardens in the fencelines.
Through it, too, a river flows: river of blood,
river of milk, the cattle spooked and circling.
The moon calls out to what is water and what is water
answers.  A pale face in the cedars.  A bleat.
Something somewhere calcifies.


[This poem was featured as Poem of the Week January 15, 2008]