Scapegoat of Eske’s Field
There came a year the potatoes in Eske’s Field
grew twisted in the ground, like men buried alive,
and the sky at night bore a new white scar
low over the north hills, pointing down.
One child was born alive that summer,
and that one had a forked tooth in its mouth.
There was nothing to do but pour mead on the stones,
burn comfrey, and brace for trouble.
People began to remember their dreams;
we told each other of beasts with wings, of plague and flood,
a hundred ways the curse could bend, like a snake.
And we milked our goats, hauled water and peat.
The potatoes were good, the baby grew strong,
our cheeses in their rough coats ripened,
lost things were found, but every day
we looked left and right, eyes wide as if it were dark.
That child was a man grown and cutting peat
when they found a haunch, then the rest of a man
like a leather sack, deep in the bog. His head was broken,
his throat cut deep with a noose around it,
and in his mouth were poison bird’s-foot leaves.
His hands were bound, his eyes were shut, and his face
wore a look we barely recognized,
of one who knows he has nothing more to fear.
© 2007 University of North Carolina Greensboro