Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review

The Exchange

Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review

The Exchange

Article excerpt

Between Wytheville, Virginia

and the North Carolina line,

he meets a wagon headed

where he's been, seated beside

her parents a dark-eyed girl

who grips the reins in her fist,

no more than sixteen, he'd guess

as they come closer and she

doesn't look away or blush

but allows his eyes to hold

hers that moment their lives pass.

He rides into Boone at dusk,

stops at an inn where he buys

his supper, a sleepless night

thinking of fallow fields still

miles away, the girl he might

not find the like of again.

When dawn breaks he mounts his roan,

then backtracks, searches three days

hamlets and farms, any smoke

rising above the tree line

before he heads south, toward home,

the French Broad's valley where spring

unclinches the dogwood buds

as he plants the bottomland,

come night by candlelight builds

a butter churn and cradle,

cherry headboard for the bed,

forges a double-eagle

into a wedding ring and then

back to Virginia and spends

five weeks riding and asking

from Elk Creek to Damascas

before he finds the wagon

tethered to the hitching post

of a crossroads store, inside

the girl who smiles as if she'd

known all along his gray eyes

would search until they found her. …

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