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In His Previous Life as a Camas Lily

      after Robert Wrigley


He sighed each April upward,
his steady, virescent journey one

among the others—a modest rising,
casually miraculous. Beneath the hand

of the rain he leaned upon his axis,
and often leaned so far as to kiss

with tender floral primordia
the funky, black, bug-shot loam.

Though supple as he was he did not
bruise nor break, no, not even

in the wind, which came some days
screaming down the mountain

and took the limbs of muscled oaks
and twisted them to splinters. It's true,

it went mostly unnoticed, his work,
which was to rise—simple, green, and thin,

and go one sunny day wildly blue—
to be loved, then, by moths and mason bees,

to shake, finally, and scatter, to urge
every sugar to the root, to feed the earth

as it fed him. He knew this. He knew
his creek bank. He was everything

he loved. They gouged one day a road,
and like the others he was unearthed,

was left to rot along the verge. The wind
lifted up the stench, carried it down the creek,

up a river. The girl who breathed it
frowned, breathed again, and years later

became the boy's mother. She took him,
as was her wont, to creeks and rivers,

where he knew only that he should dig,
work the creek mud with his bare toes—

that he should rise and face the water,
bees and flies darting at the blue of his eyes.


Joe Wilkins

The Southern Review

Winter 2017


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