Poem of the Week | January 20, 2012

This week we’re thrilled to feature a new poem by Davis McCombs. McCombs directs the Creative Writing Program at the University of Arkansas. His first book, Ultima Thule, was chosen by W. S. Merwin for the 1999 Yale Series of Younger Poets. His second book, Dismal Rock, won the Dorset Prize and was published by Tupelo Press in 2007.

Author’s Note:

On January 16, 1902, the last wolf in Edmonson County, Kentucky was shot and killed by a local sheep farmer named Noah Duvall.  A so-called “outlaw wolf,” the large gray male had eluded capture for many months.

So much about this story interested me: the role of wolves in fairytales and folklore, our changing attitudes toward the natural world, the fraught line where nature and agriculture meet. This poem is the first in a sequence of twelve poems about that incident.

Biomass: A Genealogy

This is the book of the generations of water.
These are the pages, stiff with salts, in which
it came to pass that a sea engendered a vulture,
that a river birthed a lamb, and that a sandbar
begat a shark who swam through brine
and dwelt there for an hundred million years.
These are the books of the two types of stone.
This is the fossil record. And of the offspring
of crinoids and brachiopods: limestone.
And of the children of upthrust and splinter:
an escarpment of flintiest sand. And out of
the sandstone, a man, bundled in skins, was flung.
And they called his name Noah, and all the days
of the man were twenty-four thousand three hundred six.
And then the wolf, whelped also of water, came up
through snow that felleth like silt there upon them.
And they gathered them together at the place
of Big Clifty and of Girkin, among tree stumps,
near the hill of the petroglyphs, by the banks
of the creek that floweth through thorns.