Though I’ve Never Seen Them

I’ve heard the North Dakota mountains shine purple
and oversee the plain now more full of people
than since Columbus. The Water Protectors hold their lines

opposite dogs on weak leashes. Armored trucks stocked
with automatic rifles and mace to sear a four state fire.
The police brandish handcuffs sold in every size
and thick markers to number the arms of Protectors,
to scrawl below the bruises purple from rubber bullets.

I’m far less brave. Having only marched on Sunday,
slept in the curves of my Virginia mountains and mourned
with their the headless sisters—West Virginia and Tennessee
bled empty for coal to burn down river until the water runs tan.
The promised jobs as short-lived as their workers, they meet
faster disposal than leaf litter kindling in late Autumn.

Here below the equator, a range tied to Dakota backbone,
these Andes wear a memory linked to my Appalachians.
Of the northern warriors’ endurance I speak to these hills.
Their peaks blinded by Santiago’s smog, obscured the way

all news back home is a hair piece, a pants suit,
two lapels fixed with flag pins polished by scandal. But one
occupied office is nothing when tap water burns with a match,
sinkholes don’t care who wears a crown or a pill box hat
or baseball cap. We cannot call the president if our lips dry out.

photo via Standing Rock Rising
photo via Standing Rock Rising


Memories of Granddaddy Frank

I pluck good leaves from cellophane,
the ceraceous leather of baby spinach
failing to slime, wetting the bag.

I try to remember farming.
Wet earth under my nails, worms not far below.
Critters guard livestock, all accustomed
to the tractor hum. Sheep wait to be shorn.

The tulip poplar out front blooms each spring,
more brown each year, the pine taller, the creek
more shallow, the drive redone six times since he’s gone.

Can I scratch a half-memory, still call it home?

Love a man only in pictures.
Take this quiet waxy amber, hardening
in my lymph nodes, polish polish
polish until it glints clean topaz.