Memory Lift 'n Sweep
The tumbling-boozed man's breath in his daughter's hair
as he tucks her into bed... drops a coyote hide over her....
And a wild-haired woman spreads baked apples
across a scarred maple table.
An old heavy-jowled man piles a black chair
on top of a crate of picture albums.
The benediction of a house soon to be burned
for new tenants... corn instead of cattle.
Blue flames, a curling sepia image of a pale calf,
the click of a fingernail on treasured driftwood.
The man is skinning squirrels and his bride
is rubbing flour on the carcasses
to remove most of the hairs.
The daughter asks her father for a goodnight kiss.
This is the distance between two coyote pups
pawing each other in a den. This is the bump-rattle
of a kicked-out barn door dragged to a clearing
in mulberry woods. This is fire-crackle.
* This poem, an earlier version of it, under the title "Mow," appeared in Dacotah Territory: A 10 Year Anthology (published in 1982 by the North Dakota Institute for Regional Studies), edited by MarkVinz and Grayce Ray. This version is much revised.