Spring Break 2010 (poem)

Pine needles prick our lungs 

and auger moons hunker skyward

these woodstove nights with frost licking

 

windows, bodies sleeping in church pews

and toolshed bunks and burrowed

in branches and dead leaves, cold mountain

 

wind breaking on black wool knit. We hack

trees free from their honeysuckle cages. My

boots are yellow in black mud, my skin

 

is milk in the forest’s dark tea, and

the wind that haunts this stolen Cherokee

land binds me and whispers of hung chiefs

 

and shaved braids, of split tongues

and Sequoyah’s syllabic light, one word

of which, nunv, potato, was written

 

on a clothespin and given 

to me, the small spelling a reminder

of the cave-country dwellers rifled

 

from their homes and whose ghosts

still bone-march and death-stagger

down a long and bloodstained trail of tears. 

 

Once we were mighty,

 

the tribesman speaks,

face red against the bonfire

and the stars smoking above us,

 

Once we were sun-blessed, 

and now we’re homeless, jobless,

swallowing poverty and McDonald’s

and infomercials for hours

because we were conquered

and are being conquered,

but we nourish our ghosts

so they’ll sing to us their stories,

and we will always, always remember.

 

A dusty jar of collected words,

a dying that will not end, a life

that refuses to die, a mountain

 

that will not weep,

a people like a shattered fist

that grips, still, and pulls.

____________________________________

This poem appeared previously in Indiana Voice Journal. It is included in my upcoming book of poetry, Bright Soil, Dark Sun, which is available now for pre-order purchase through Finishing Line Press.

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