Most of what happens
has to do with chores,
and so it goes with the poem
and scrapbooks. Those Yankees
of the 1950s all smoked Camel
cigarettes and pitchers threw
nothing but lucky strikes.
I breathed my father’s smoke
looking at my baseball cards.
Those scrapbooks defined me,
alone with Sitting Bull.
War paint came with smoke
signals and the peace pipe
came later. I had sky
and railroad tracks. Railroad ties
were my first quatrains,
and my short feet found gravel
between ties breaking repetition’s
monotony. I walked rails every day,
falling before I wanted to. Two
lines. Both ends of town.
Great Northern and Soo.
Grandpa and Dad. One
became the law, one became Jesus.
Walking railroad tracks to Willow Grove,
one sings one way, sits on rocks.
Hands full of feathers, North Dakota opens
in trees and the poem reveals itself
among Indian graves, warrior rocks.
I walked to get here. Walking the one way.
Coming alone. Enough, and it lasted.
I walked through it all, not reaching the ties,
falling from rails. Losing my balance,
over and over. Away from town.
Away from the depot.
Away from the elevator.
She was willing. Guide and companion.
It was me who couldn’t find it then.
It’s clear to me now that Jesus was the outlaw.
Jesus wasn’t smoking no peace pipe.
He liked those cigarettes.
LSMFT, is all he said.
Crazy Horse looked up.
Did one of them smile?
Grandpa was the lawman.
He wore his cop hat cockeyed,
walked with a limp
and had a missing thumb.
Crazy Horse did not pass the pipe.
Talking with grownups remains a chore.
Most of my failures come from here.
Talking with grownups.
Did I ever really talk to a grownup?
I don’t think so.
This took a lifetime to learn.
I stay away from them when I can.
I moved into the back seat with the kids.
It’s easier being older.
I stay away from grownups
like I stay away from sit-down dinners.
21 June—22 July, 2013