Davis McCombs

Ozark Landscape

The face of the owl
in the oak snag
lights the remnants
of an old plateau.
All across the scarped
erosions now
the smell of ice,
that moment, atwitch,
astir, when the root
reveals a face.
Then the twig
becomes a torch,
the crimp of the leaf
a hand, a claw.
I’d picked two pebbles
from the dry streambed
and kept them
in a moleskin pouch.
To live in the Ozarks
is to wait until
the sockets in the bark
cry out for eyes.
It is to be ready.
Will you set a gourd bowl
brimming shadow
at the edge of the coals?
Will you whittle a spoon
from a branch?
These are the questions.
To live here
is to pluck fur strands
from the fence’s
barb and save them.
It is to turn from the fire
saying wind is a mallet,
saying sandstone.
Will you? Tonight
I follow the dents
of tracks to a latch
that is a fistful of mud
and I will say—I will—
trust no one.

Davis McCombs is the author of two poetry collections, Ultima Thule (Yale 2000) and Dismal Rock (Tupelo 2007). He directs the Creative Writing Program at the University of Arkansas.