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He clucked his tongue, slapped the bull’s rump, and turneda herd of Angus, single file, through the narrow gapin the fence to the barn lot. He lingered by the tailgateof his pickup, smoked while the sky reeled icy cirrusover the fescue, and foretold the sheets of rain that, by mid-week,draped the blue hills and approached, the hay balessafe in the loft. He played the barn vents at curing timelike the stops of an instrument, and went on, cuppinghis hands around the life he’d inherited as if it were a flame.The cedars smoked their pollen into the blue air; a drought monthlit the shucks of fall, and he searched the sky’s empty bowlbut never saw the storm that, far beyond him, was purplinglike a bruise and taking everything he took for granted.
From “Tobacco Mosaic,” originally published in Dismal Rock (Tupelo Press, 2007), winner of the Dorset Prize. Reprinted by permission. [End Page 119]
Davis McCombs is the Director of the Program in Creative Writing and Translation at the University of Arkansas. He is the author of two collections, Ultima Thule (Yale) and Dismal Rock (Tupelo). His poems have recently appeared in the New Yorker, Oxford American, Pleiades, and Shenandoah.