Completing the Work
Driving all week to get here
it doesn’t take five minutes
for questions to surface,
lining up like ghosts at Christmas.
This is the hall of innocence
before the oil boom dreamtime child.
Tell me, confuse the time. No one
knows you here, you claiming
need for undercover.
I notice you didn’t stay under long
before coming up for air.
You thought you’d take
a few pictures, make a report?
The word redemption surfaces?
No need to drill?
This place is off-place, no where
to you, bushwacker. You’ll always
be a child running through a living room
in someone’s silent 8 mm movies here.
Voice asking, Who’s that?
Wayne & Lucille’s boy, a voice
from a sofa says, Myra Homiston’s
daughter, she married Wayne Bodeen
who ran the elevator, even
the elevator’s gone. This is the prairie
during the oil boom. This is the Kaprieva house.
These are Great Northern tracks.
You can’t track them.
This is the state that names the town lost.
Everything here is gone for one like you.
Coteau d’ Missouri is a land feature
belonging to geology. Even the train
depot is gone. Ones who play by rules
put pressure on the town itself.
Live people don’t understand, do they?
Sun will come up soon. Quarter moon.
Your grandparents buried here.
Your father’s brother, the twin,
pulled to his grave on a sled, a child.
Those who live here still claim
innocence—back door claim.
The mayor takes sales tax money
from oil and builds a few sidewalks.
There’s no grocery store in town.
Farmers says, We’ve got it all now.
We’ve got everything here.
One in four people come to work.
The other three bring trouble.
Leave the key in a combine now
and somebody will drive it into a slough.
The other one brings meth and prostitution.
Drug cartels operate from man camps.
We have everything here.
This morning the town has you.
You were a boy in this town.
Born in time of innocence.
Railroad tracks at both ends of town
as boundaries. Tribal boundaries,
and this was tribal chance. You have
those memories, real as any fact.
Child in the days before vaccines.
We have everything here, they say,
meaning, We have all kinds of trouble.
We have all you see on television news.
You listen. You have come for this.
To listen. And beauty before the eye.
Cat tails in roadside ponds.
Spring of antelope in fields.
But not innocence. Not that.
Here, you were given the gift of darkness.
You saw it all before it arrived.
Darkness was here, itinerant.
You’re here for a short time.
Write that trouble into your notebook.
Here there’s enough already.
You’re here to witness and praise.
16-17 October 2015
Bowbells North Dakota
WAKING IN THE PARK OF MY BIRTH
Parked under the water tower
train whistles on the Great Northern tracks.
It’s Saturday morning. Mid-October,
I don’t know a handful of people
in this town, county seat of Burke County,
Railroad bureaucrats named the town
after a bell somewhere in London,
according to one story. One story has it
my life would have been different here,
and I’ve followed that thread
all my life making it so.
17 October 2015