PORTRAIT OF A LOST LAND

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Submitted Date 10/26/2018
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A forgotten field on a reservation where cattle once choked

on cheat grass, it holds mouthfuls of memories turned dust,

the whys still echoing. Heavy in its lonesome, the day drags

its heels over rock-hewn soil, this ancient riverbed of bones,

its secrets crumbling. In the air a vacancy of miles looms

wide over this vast shrub-steppe turned orchard—the hull

of the valley abloom with hops, barley, junk cars. Barren

foothills undress the dawn, while proud stalks of field corn

huddle together like grass warriors donned in headdresses

of gold. Farmers talk shop—silage, water rights, the price

of grain—make deals in a cafe and roll dice for breakfast.

My own farmer takes his turn, says I haven't had to pay yet.

I roll five fours and win a free steak and eggs. I rarely play

this game. I'm a lone woman among men who don't read

poetry; to them poetry is a productive heifer, a good crop

yield, a barn full of hay—the open land their paper, a plow

their pen. And their words need no translation. Boredom,

acres of it, could turn a good horse crazy. I feed stray dogs,

take walks, take notes, and take burning-water to Thunder,

a pot-marked native resigned to a gutted-out travel trailer.

Clouds stretch out, tangle in blue, and the sun bleeds

in its pocket of sky, blood on pale hands, of fattened cattle,

herded to slaughter, blood of battles won, battles lost, and

warriors, whose faint drum beats sound in the distant night.

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