national anthology of the best undergraduate writing 2011

Philology

Neil VanLandingham  • 
Rice University

If I said that our conversations
have something to do
with the way the creosote bush ravels
itself into the barbed wire
and around the sun-warped timbers
of a cattle fence, would you know
what I meant? Would the expression bring
to light just the wire-rust in its color or feel,
pulled out from the grass, the blossoms, the tumbleweed
shootout in that movie we watched once about the Old West?
Could you really disregard the cows?
The animal habits that always graze in the distance.
The map I gave you dragged along its own mystery
so that now all day you think not just about where you are
but also about cartography.
A tuft of hair caught in a barb soughs with the wind.