The First Signal

by William Wright

Once, down near the swales where the hay
had been doused with rain, and the bales
had come undone and lay flat and half-eaten
near the barn, my father and I walked out past

our acres and into a yellow field. It was yellow
all year, a heath, and here the wood smoke came
strong. We went on walking, out past the springhouse
and the watercress on another farm, made a fire

one county over. In the paroxysms of shadow-light,
he sat there in the grass, a ghost
about to leave the body. He clung and snapped
twigs, chucked them in the flame:

and embers blew back into his face, his hair.
He never flinched, spoke: I do not erase my father
now for his silence, for I cannot ditch his pulse,
my own blood. I cannot transfuse love

trapped in the body and passed down, not to this land
or any creek-force or even to springs when green
vines flare and speak for him, sway and speak
to vindicate the wordlessness our tongues command.

WILLIAM WRIGHT is author of seven collections of poetry: four full length books, including Tree Heresies (Mercer University Press, forthcoming in spring 2015), Night Field Anecdote(Louisiana Literature Press, 2011), Bledsoe (Texas Review Press, 2011), and Dark Orchard(Texas Review Press, 2005, winner of the Breakthrough Poetry Prize). Wright’s chapbooks are Sleep Paralysis (Stepping Stones Press, 2012, Winner of the South Carolina Poetry Initiative Prize, selected by Kwame Dawes), Xylem & Heartwood (Finishing Line Press, 2013) and The Ghost Narratives (Finishing Line). Wright is Series Editor and Volume Co-editor of The Southern Poetry Anthology, a multivolume series celebrating contemporary writing of the American South, published by Texas Review Press. Additionally Wright serves as Assistant Editor for Shenandoah, translates German poetry, and is editing three volumes, including Hard Lines: Rough South Poetry (with Daniel Cross Turner). Wright won the 2012 Porter Fleming Prize in Literature. Wright has recently published in The Kenyon Review, Oxford American, The Antioch Review, Shenandoah, and Southern Poetry Review.