Friday, November 25, 2011

Memory Lift 'n Sweep



Memory Lift 'n Sweep

          I

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.

          II

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.

          III

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.

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