2018 Celeste Turner Wright Poetry Prize

unfield

by Kristin George Bagdanov
 
 
The poem I am
writing is not a field
in which I find
or do not find my
self. There is no filling
of graves with dirt, no trans-
posing of blood and earth.
I do not give unto space
my absence, nor extract 
my verse until a shadow
is coerced to speak also
my name. I cannot ask
you to watch me pleasure
this edge, either. The meeting 
of tall grass with taller trees 
a formula I am told bears
life, bares death where
coyote stalk and leave
a record of encounter:
two patches of fur snagged
on sagebrush. I cannot keep telling you
how frontier rhymes with fear 
but not tear, as in, jaws
locked in an embrace uncovered
10,000 years from now, teeth
still sharp enough to draw 
whatever blood becomes. Ten 
thousand years, which I am told
is the limit of responsibility
of being able to respond to an
other looking back and asking 
in the symbols of their making
why we could not contain what
we shed, the content oozing 
out our vessels, decomposing steel 
plated sarcophagi with patient address. 
This poem wants to be 
good, to mark on the map 
the verve of making, to hold
your face in its jaws without puncture
the way coyote carry their young
against imminent darkness
which I am told will be thick as ash
and sweet as the cloud of white
churning behind trucks that dust
the crops at dusk, children shrieking
with delight as they chase the rest
of their lives that feeling of opening
their mouths to anything without 
caring the source without knowing
the shape it will take inside 
of breathing deep no matter 
the matter it makes, the hunger
it will never sate.