Friday, March 2, 2018

It has been a while since I posted poems on this blog.  In fact, those posted today date from Spring 2014, already four years ago.  I had just read Elizabeth Kolbert's unnerving The Sixth Extinction, making extensive notes as I read.  The first longish poem "The Bottom of the Sixth . . ." in this post is based on those notes along with my continuing encounter with Veronica, the character from the earlier "Prairie Elegy."  

As with that one, any number of phrases and tropes are purloined from some of my favorite folk-rock and Americana artists.  As with "Prairie Elegy" a Discography follows.  

The Bottom of the Sixth allusion derives from my fondness for baseball. Readers who remember Philip Roth's The Great American Novel may recognize the reference to Terra Incognita.

(There are two earlier shorter "Bottom of the Sixth" poems, which somehow provided an avenue to the longer one, following.)

"Prairie Elegy" still follows today's post, as far as I can tell.  If not, select 2016 in the right side margin if my tales of Veronica amuse you.

The Bottom of the Sixth in Terra Incognita

The gentlest of taps on a tired shoulder & then
my broken heart misses its best shot at killing
me expediently. Baseball in Terra Incognita
always a dubious proposition and it seems
like only me and the players and tired old
timers with rheumy eyes who can’t see
too good anymore and maybe haven’t
even in salad days when they never ate
salad anyway. Just the beasts of the field they
subdued by killing them. Unimpeachably, one
way to do it. I was there to see the Rupert Mundys.
I remember them Mundys, Veronica announced
unannounced. I emerged astonished beholding  
heaven and earth as never quite before.

What in heaven and earth was SHE doing there?  
Hadn’t she dumped me at the Bison Paddock? 
She said she thought she might find me there
where the buffalo used to roam. She was the kind
of girl who could say things that weren’t that funny.
She could be a bit of a coyote, skin the honey
hue those imminent Sioux wore emanating up (and down)
in quest of their few remaining bison. 
She even had a bow to slay the umpire when the call
went wrong. As it inevitably would. But killing
messengers is release and not reward and now
they have instant replay in Terra Incognita anyway.
Besides, they just might have been looking for us.

We weren’t much of anywhere but the end of the road
near Dinosaur on US 40 where Phil Roth Field casts
its luminous glow. When the PA played God
Bless Vespucciland it seemed like a good time
to go, it wasn’t that great a game anyway
and she had made an already sumptuous camp. 
She used to tell me scrumptiously sounding things
and so I had remained a sucker for her & her
kind, firesigns and all. There was her tent and she
told me I could sleep in the bathos of my dreams.
It still was tied in the seventh we later learned.
But O! the bath I took in the end. It reminded me
of what I remembered from Bab edh-Dhra.
Reminded me of what can happen in the morning.

In the morning we went looking for the frogs
that won’t outlive us. Boys throw stones
at frogs in sport she reminded me but
the frogs die in earnest. I never threw stones at any
old frog and couldn’t hit the broadside
of a barn anyway, I told her in adamant retreat. 
And that time you barbecued their tiny legs on
Pheasant Ave. NW? What rose from those ashes?
A taste for flesh and fire, I suppose. As usual
she had me and all I could remember were those
haunches of Buffalo we would never taste again.
She wasn’t going to leave me. She wasn’t going
to leave me alone. It made for certain difficulties.
We agreed to let Bion and his cynical diatribes be bygones.

She built a fire and told me about Homo
diluvii testis who witnessed the Flood
as a salamander. I thought we had won
the war with the Newts. But Froggy went a’Courtin’
& Molly Mouse was the hat check girl, and we
hung our hats on desiccated Pinyon boughs and hoped
the fruit would not fall too far from our tree. 
The great serpent in the sky spoke with a tongue
just as forked as The Great White Father’s. Promised us
the land, the vista, and assorted ancestral
properties. It was all as confused as what I
learned in school. She seemed secure enough
in the facts of the matter. We had only begun.

She taught me a saying: camels often sit down
carefully, perhaps their joints crack. I do and mine did
so it seemed a wise saying if only from some Terra
Lingua Incognita. Then we got down to
a terrifying taxonomy. She insisted, I say,
she insisted, I was the last megatherium. 
I ain’t one of them Camelids! I cried. I protest!
Them are those pigs and hippopotami,
them deer and giraffes and cattle. 
Them goats and antelope. Look! In Big Wide
Wonderful Wyoming they call the pronghorn
goats but that’s not what they are. Not taxonomically. 
They’re not even antelope! Not taxonomically! 
I’d never been so shocked. She used to love me a lot.
And only because I was the last of the megatheria?

So there we lay, melodizing laylike on
the lay of the land and the lines it drew before our
weary aging eyes. Not much to go on
is there? she reminded me and then
I had to micturate. OK, go ahead, piss on it,
she taunted me. You don’t know squat and don’t have to either.
Not my fault, not my fault, I continued in protest.
I didn’t punch them doggies. Or them megatheriums.
You do squat to shit, don’t you? she continued. 
Each of ours will all but certainly bear careful
examination by the planet’s next species’
analog for anthropologists a few hundred
million solar rotations hence, she foresaw forcefully.
Dig it. You know it will and so will they.

Old roads are built on old rivers, it occurred to me,
and that maybe she was getting a little big
for her very attractive Venus Project hemp britches.
Maybe even backtalk will soon be proscribed
here in the ever-later Anthropocene?
Lord make me an instrument of her piece I pled. 
Besides, I’d just been fifteen days under the hood.
You ever tried that? Ever talked to trilobites,
belemites & ammonites the size of wagon wheels?
No way to leave her company, seeking outsized bones
 . . . seeking the strength of her line . . .
seeking that which only Wonmug and Bloom might have. 
Requisition Lewis, Clark, and Sacajawea,
and steal their orders? Go in our own skins to find incognita?

Roam the forests aboriginal, unexplored and undisturbed? 
Assume the aspect of le Mayne, traverse the Ohio?
Dragoon some Algonquin and Iroquois, beat Jefferson &
Lewis & Clark to the Devil’s Punchbowl.
See what we might learn about espèces perdues?
Get our kicks in Big Bone Lick? Wouldn’t that be
a dose of sweet satiety. Stand up as Oop did
to Wonmug and Bloom in the eternal
machine of time. Lavish our care on trace fossils
left by the Little People who exterminated
the dangerous Witch Buffalo with horns sticking
straight from her forehead, all for the cause
of Paleontology in Kentucky, fueled on 
Bourbon demonic as Barbados rum. 

Better to drink instead from the lees of
Cuvier’s cuvee of extinction. It hurts down here
‘cause we’re running out of beer but
we’re all gonna die someday? Aren’t we all
after all, “capable of violent tremors
& eruptions”? Don’t we all want to pop
up in Paris like a mushroom? I certainly do!
Not me she replied, artfully tart as fine hard cider. 
She confessed to preferring Florence. Always had
a thing for Florentines. She was lovely
as the Lily of the West and I feared her
betrayal. Maybe you want to talk about
Proboscidea? she went on, predatory
glint in her amber eye. Maybe you want to see

l’animal moyen de Montmartre?
Get it on over transformisme v. evolution,
see Lamarck as our missing spiritual link,
feel the Beagle upon us like the direct
revelation of a higher power much as
Alfred Newman did? Not everything is impossible,
she went on. Not everything is
“an affair as unlikely as levitation.”
Things got scary after that. She told me about
the tests of the Foraminifera. They look like
beehives, braids, bubbles, clusters of grapes, and
beaded earrings of the sort Chris makes.
Alvarez examined his from Gola de Bettoccione,
and he for one knew his uniformatarianism.

Knew his ammonites & rudist bivalves. 
Even the quartz was shocked. And then there was
the Crater of Doom, and the fern spike and the
Strangelovian Ocean. The Nautili, the chambered ones,
(we’re all gonna die someday as Kasey might sing).
Building a more stately mansion for either
of our souls seemed about as far-fetched as
the Midianites there in the Crater of Doom.
There in Chicxulub, coinciding perfectly with
the boundary between the Cretaceous and
the Paleogene when and where non-avian
dinosaurs suffered hundred percent losses
as did the terrestrial Enanthiornithine &
the aquatic Hesperornithine birds.

Then and there at the bottom of the fifth.  
The very thought brought sadness to my heart, as though we
might not ever stretch for a seventh, hoping
against dubious hope, even willing to settle
for a date with the devil himself, push the old Nick
over the precipice like the pious shepherd
at Dob’s Linn. Disregard the signs of mismatch
for as long as we might until we encounter
for our very own selves the “My God” reaction
as the paradigms suddenly shift and the ground
we could have sworn is solid drifts at our feet.
Come to personal terms with neocatastrophism
as conditions on earth change only very slowly,
except when they don’t, watch as

Rationalization convolutes as
contradictions accumulate, watch in
stunned silence until a finally perspicacious
prophet for our desperate age calls a red spade
a red spade and reminds the spellbound
that graptolites turn out not to be hieroglyphs,
even as we look for ziczac in
environments where it brooks no human,
nor even biological, origin. You are your own
Nemesis, Veronica told me as though it
were a consolation prize. As I am mine
and all of our kind are all of ours. We have
done it to ourselves and if you want me

to hear about it so we together may indulge
a worldly fantasy of having told the truth
in a truthless world, so be it. You remind me of Ruth
among the alien corn, was all I could think to reply.
We are neither of us going anywhere, not even
in pursuit of espèces perdues. I think the game
is over and not because it’s been delayed by rain. He who
has no name said a fire not a flood next time,
she agreed. So there we sat in a dead draw
in Terra Incognita and waited silently,
watching a senseless sun fire the bluff
to the east from its impersonal house in the west.

Bottom of the Sixth Discography

Paul Simon, Graceland, Warner Brothers, 1986
Bob Dylan, Good As I Been To You, Columbia, 1992        
John Eddie, Who the Hell is John Eddie? Lost Highway, 2003
The Chad Mitchell Trio, Reflecting, 1964
Southern Culture on the Skids, Santo Swings, Estrus Records, 1996
Well-known Degenerate Laramie Musicians, “Roamin’ through Wyoming,” Responsibility No One Dare Take, @ 1977
James McMurtry, Live in Aught-Three, Compadre Records, 2004
New Riders of the Purple Sage, New Riders, MCA, 1976
The Brian Setzer Orchestra, The Brian Setzer Orchestra,  
     Hollywood, 1994
The Hollywood Argyles, “Alley Oop,” Marginal, 1960
Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, 4 Way Street, Atlantic, 1971
Kasey Chambers, The Captain, EMI, 1999
Peter Paul & Mary, Moving, Warner Brothers, 1963
Desmond Dekker and the Aces, “Israelites,” Uni Records, 1968
The Rolling Stones, Beggar’s Banquet, Decca, 1968
Leonard Cohen, Live in London, Sony, 2009
Grateful Dead, Terrapin Station, Arista, 1977

Bottom of the Sixth

Maybe that higher power has got its own
self a little too high.  (Many fey wise jokes on
4/20 and Easter being the same day
in the local news.)  And how wise may we be,

O wise ones?  We procurers of all good
bad and arguably ugly on a fine
Saturday baseball afternoon with wrap
around games and plenty to smoke if that

way your pleasure tends.  Or trends?  The trends
are not so good.  It is the bottom of the sixth
somewhere in baseball land.  And also in
this our Turtle Island home where too many
run far amok amid distressing dreams of
dead brothers, grandparents, and big old tortoises.

The bottom of the 6th, continues
The lady scientist believes in God so it all might
seem to be at least a little bit justified.  Did the
Lady Eve believe in He Who Has No Name?
Even when He didn’t, at least not quite yet then?
Then it was that that sweet toothed serpent
wormed his way in.  He was a He, right?  Isn’t
it all the fault of some gender specific male
who got a little indeterminate at some point.
Bless his pointed little head by all means.
And then point your own little head where it doesn’t
want to go and get used to the idea that it is
the bottom of the sixth and that even your own weird
little genes will not likely survive the seventh extinction
no matter how important they seem to you, at the moment.

Routinely Oblivious

There are those, I have heard reported,
who report immediately as though they are
there.  Which they are, as far as I can tell.
I am not one such.  I, routinely oblivious, still remember
Nonesuch, the label where we of limited income
could buy for two or three dollars putatively obscure
classical music.  Albinoni, for example, sublime
keyboard compositions from the Italian Baroque.

Also a very fine St. Matthew Passion which
Gary Rillema reported from Married Student Housing
in Laramie, (2016 Land), to his parents that he was
listening to Handel’s Messiah on a Sunday nowhere
near either Christmas nor Easter.  Nonesuch, as such, also
for some folk musicians, as was that Vanguard.

Setting Picks

He thinks he’s King Crimson when he can profess
to hate a baseball team.  It’s easily done,
you just pick anyone, pick to provoke a Sabbath
of discord.  Better than religion, one supposes,
although supposing can get troublesome somewhere
down the line.  Bottom of the sixth.  Nobody on,
and setting picks is a foul in certain contact sports.
Pick your poisons, you honorable combatants in
competitions with uncertain rules.  The rule
of the variously pissed off pisses on all kinds
sticking around.  Kind of the point.  So more than kith,
so less than kind, and there we go again.  Kind? 
Kind of
 like an entry
                     in the ungulate division. 

The Bolt House

And then there we were at the Bolt house with
those magnificent twin black walnut trees within a
horseshoe drive where Uncle Harry aka
Jim argued with his father about God’s elect
when he wasn’t selling shoes at that store
with the Xray-your-foot machine
on Eastern Ave., Catty Corner from
Eastern Avenue Xtian Reformed Church.
Right down the street from Burton Street and
a house of another sort where Burt Vander Meer
aspired to a ministry and which his kid and me tried
to burn down, accidentally of course, playing
with matches in the cellar as we might have in any
old house, and failed, although not without trying.

The Higher Power

Spring Peepers, remember them?  Froggy
went a’courtin’, at least in Ravenscroft's 
Melismata version.  Sadly, had no greenback
dollars.  But he sang what must be sung. 
And it all turned out pretty good!  Molly Mouse
was the hat check girl.  Money don’t get
everything, it’s true.  Kills a froggy or two,
though.  And then there’s a person from
Greenpeace all dressed up for Porlock.
Might even talk to her if she didn’t
look like a toad and want greenback dollars.
Darwin spent the Beagle Voyage pretty much
seasick, and still got down words that struck
Newman as “direct revelation of a higher power.”

The pointillism of the Masters

Who would have thought there to be such pink
in so bloodily red white & blue a gallery?
If only we could hit it close, that close, close
enough to seem to have an idea, any idea at all
of what we did or even why it was done.
No such luck. Our kind are not kind nor
in right mind to do something that tough,
again. And what was it and why so tough, again?

A night from now our sun will eclipse our moon
billowing diaphanous plumes against our planet-
bound doomed intentions, hopes, even,
of a safer universe, a place we might see from
a home of our own, from a place we think we live,
where we give surly lip service to our Masters.


It’s enough to make you want to go to Africa,
just like that girl in Johnny’s Camaro.
“How you get up there?” Well, she had jumped.
The bump in the up, nine degrees by the end
2099, so to speak, at least the degrees are in F,
only five in C!  “The frog does not drink
up the pond in which he lives.” At least that’s
what the Sioux said but we all know what became
of them. Maybe the Frogs did it?  Maybe not, eh? 
The worst-case 2100 scenario is only 6C so
don’t we have a degree with which we may
happily play?  Even NASA agrees and even
Texas Christians fund those guys. ACD? 
Look it up for your very own self.

Verdi cries

I draw a jackal-headed woman in the sand
and protect her with my wits from the libel
that she is just another welfare queen.
So was Cleopatra.  Her welfare wasn’t protected?
Time to start rising for the moon! Anubis?
You dare to bring Anubis up? You’d be in
transgenderland! You’d be rising for the moon, and you
might even get there. For the moment, lets
adore Hypatia, sadly done in by good Christians
of the Alexandrine profession.  Fathers, don’t let
your daughters grow up to be scientists!
The dog-faced troops can support themselves.
They’re awful good at making killers.
Not near so good at making men.

Remembering Nam

Happily, we remember the salad days
of American Empire. Strafe the town.
Who are we, or anyone, to judge?
Kill the people.  And embrace as family
the brave fellaheen given helicopters
to dispense napalm. It’s not for me to judge. 
Those were the good old days when you
could get stoned on valium and gin while all
the fine young fellas from someone’s
hometown dropped napalm on someone else’s.
I remember Nam too.  It seemed for a time
a time to forget, but I couldn’t quite. Never quite
forgot how they got out there every Sunday to catch
them perfidious Gooks at their morning prayer.

Movie Review

And so we come to that old sepia of old
New York where the sentient cowboy up
and lead a mirthful parade, but no one quite
dare call it Great. Not like Citizen Kane
or Birth of a Nation or A Clockwork Orange.
Not even Robert Osborne.  It’s pretty good though. 
There are pigs and llamas and ponies leaping
impossibly from a railroad  boxcar.
Bolivia didn’t really look like that.
Or did it?  Does it still?  We’ll all feel a lot better
after we rob a couple of banks.  Won’t we?
Promise?  Adios! Sweet Betsy from Pike
was never any sweeter.  Bingo!
Están Swingles?  Non! que es la familia de la perdiz!

Friday, April 22, 2016

Prairie Elegy

Oh for the voice of a soaring sky in register high
with bass as clear as rolling thunder rocking
the prairie lit only by electric light
shot through the rising dust of the herds.

“You wish so hard you’re scaring me.”
Realize an older time deep in dream, beasts
dreaming dreamily of some perfect past
sensible only as great beasts can be. 

The rulers dream relentlessly
elegiac in their insistence upon
ruthless prairies of proud imagination.

Imagine a continent roamed across and beyond
by wiser ones than we, and they
above and below our hopelessly helpless kind.

But prairie song is so awful, she complained after a few bars.
      It goes on and on and there never is
      an end to the hearing of it.

But what about Red Cloud? I thought too late to reply.
      What about Crazy Horse & the Great Bull?

So, she returns, Am I your prairie Beatrice
      come to show the true horizon from which
      to view how many hundred bloodstained years?
      Find your own saucy Beatrice!
      I’m on to you fella, you and your kind
      You and your junk mail!
      I’ve had enough!  I am so out of here!
            These prairies ruined by you and yours and
            ruinous of my kind.  See you in Osawatomie.


By the time we got to Osawatomie
she had changed her name to Veronica.
I thought we might be getting somewhere
      although it was a little hard
      to know exactly where that was.

The lyrics rolled like prairie thunder
with the lightning of the Lord God screaming
(or was it the the Great Spirit singing?)
“So this is where Old Yellow Hair’s Ghost Dance Begins.”
But it was only Jimmie Dale Gilmore.

Go to the Little Big Horn O questing pilgrim
& see with your own eyes
The innocent ridge above the high prairie plain
Where the last Sioux masses camped
Somewhere only the imperial blind might not see them.

I dreamed I saw Fort Laramie last night.
            I dreamed I beheld the the wakpamni
            and enjoyed the hell out of it, even if
            it was only a great distribution of bribes.
            I dreamed I enjoyed the great feast of boiled dog
            With Belgian Jesuit Fr. De Smet, who baptized
            894 Indians and 61 half-bloods
            and that we drank a flagon of great Belgian ale.
            I dreamed we danced together, Fr. De Smet and me,
            to the mystic chords of memory
            played by Red Cloud’s Bad Face Band.

Belgian ale? I don’t think so! she sassed me back.
More likely mini waken, the “water that makes men crazy”
a shuddering mixture of diluted grain alcohol, molasses,
tobacco juice, and crushed red pepper, and
if not that, maybe Taos Lightening, surely
you’ve had your Taos Lightening, pilgrim!

I let it go at that . . .

I dreamed I danced on Fetterman’s grave at
the Little Big Horn.  Which was not where he fell.
But is where he is buried, she patiently explained. 
There may be something to your dreams after all.

I dreamed I saw the Chickahominy River and that
      I drank from the bloody Lakota aquifer,
watched as my elimination polluted the Oglala, dreamed
of Nebraskas before Nebraska and Wyomings before Wyoming,                                              dreamed
it got played on Morning Music on Wyoming Public Radio,
dreamed that Veronica and I wept tears bitter and joyous
      beneath the monument to Crazy Horse
and shot Mt. Rushmore full of holes.

It was a great and joyous dream.
We dug deep for the place names.
Chivington’s slaughter at Sand Creek in the Colorado
      where innocents perished in the snow. 
Oh for the spirit of Black Kettle to rise and testify
such testimony as would draw tears even from
Rushmore let alone Crazy Horse at his monument
      if they ever get it done. 

This is not my doing, I protest, but
      it is the reason I am here.
Veronica has her own version: Not me, not me, I have nothing to
do with it! I am from another world let alone dimension! 

Go back and be Beatrice, then! I sternly reply.
This is either our country or not.  Still on board,
she shrugs her shoulders in reply, hoping, I can only hope,
to reassure my all but flagging purpose.

So we went to the Greasy Grass, Veronica and me.
So how, I think to ask, I have to wonder,
      did you get to be Veronica all suddenly like that?

Read your Dante lately? She wants to know. 

In fact . . . I had . . . if only by coincidence
just before she came on the scene . . .

if in perhaps dubious translation.  Remind me,
I ask as kindly as I can.  Canto 31
she tells me as kindly as she can:  The part
about the Croatian pilgrim mopping the brow of the Christ.[1]
But I don’t believe in that Christ, I protest, not kindly at all,
      despising the very notion . . .
But those guys did! She has the nerve to remind me.
And if he didn’t believe it either, Red Cloud
was known to spout bits of Christian doctrine.

So what about Taos Lightening? I had finally to ask.
And she would not explain that,
I only later to learn:
            “cheap laudanum-laced wheat liquor.”

[1] As some Croatian pilgrim who is shown,
In Rome, the Veronica (the handkerchief
That once, when Christ climbed his last hill alone,
A woman used to bring him some relief,
Mopping his brow), will say, within his mind,
“Lord Jesus Christ, true God, was this you? . . .


It was only then that our true journey could begin.
It was clear as a crystal dawn.  It was not a pretty picture.
Nor a story of true romance, nor any other, for that matter.

Monroe, Hopedale, any number of place names rolling off how                                            many tongues?
West Point, a name redolent of murderous chivalry
fit to inspire any heart pointed west. 

Bull Run?  Gettysburg, as far as that goes.  Brandie Station.  Aldie.                                        Chancellorsville,
and Bull Run.  Prophecy of an encounter with another bull of                                                 another sort
known more for his sitting than running? 
I dreamed I saw the Michigan Brigade last night.
I dreamed I saw the Bozeman Trail.  I dreamed
I circled high as Raven above Lewis and Clark.  I dreamed I was
Tom Jefferson whose vision would not let him rest
between bouts of intestinal disease
and great sex with Sally Hemmings.

You have a dirty mind.  She shot me down.
And besides, how come you never dream about me?

She was high above me
      like Raven above all others.
 Fat Chance! she scoffed.  What would
      Laura Ellen think of you?

And what would Red Cloud think of my Veronica?  What excuse                                                  for her
      or any of our relentless need to efface the facts of the matter?
Not guilty your respective honors!  Not me!  Not my Veronica!  We
      didn’t punch those doggies!  We just wanted to see them get                                                          along, along
to where those buffalo roam, or at least used to!


This time I really am out of here! she threatens.
      I’m not your Veronica, I’m not anyone’s
I’m not even my own and I want
      back to my roots!  So get your Buster Brown shoes
and brains out of my way!  I am leaving now!

We parted company near the Bison paddock in Golden Gate Park.

She was in a lot better shape than the buffalo there, I in a little                                                      worse.

We both missed Laura Ellen but her music still rings in my ears.
      Any day now, any way now, we shall all be released.


I dreamed I saw another Veronica, last night, alive
as in any comic book with Archie, Jughead, and Scooby Doo                                                                      entwined.
Alive as Emily Dickinson in her Amherst redoubt.
Alive as any of those five sisters, forming
a loose aggregation of
      who the fuck knows what?

Are we men?  No, we are Buddha
      & if that isn’t enough for
      Jughead the Jarhead then for all
      he can hope is a jar into which
      he may piss, piss his dreams and
      hopes for sacred space on which
      the eye might graze and remember
      nothing but the whole soaring indelible
      blaze of the morning star.

I see we’re back to the Little Big Horn.
The voice came as though from nowhere.
I thought you had left, we tell each other as one. 

No, the two of us entwined as his avatar . . .
the avatar of Crazy Horse.  Together we dream
the Battle of Red Buttes (aka Bridge Station)
Together we can provoke Red Cloud’s war. 
Together, Red Cloud, with our help, can win it. 


The rest, sadly, did not go quite so well
despite a promising start . . .

Bare serviceberry trees formed a windbreak
as we slithered through the Saltbrush
like the little snakes the Chippewa called the Sioux
slithering for the briefest of glimpses of
The Heart of Everything that Is.
And finding only fool’s gold.
Touched the pen to our own Horse Creek Treaty
promising peace on the prairie forevermore,
just like Millard Fillmore.

Lay awake on our backs at night
watching the Carrier convey the souls
of the dead to the Road of Spirits.
Listening for even the muted whisper of
any of the four winds born of the goddess Ite
who conspired with the trickster Inktomi
to create the Buffalo Nation and deliver
the people from below through the Wind Cave
choosing for their deliverance (and for ours?)
Paha Sapa, the Heart of Everything That Is.

Next stop, Fort Phil Kearny.
There’s no here here, I found myself in protest.

You just wait! Veronica abjured all such remonstrance.
      There was, and there will be.  And it’s about
      time we get the women’s point of view.  Don’t dare
      imagine you have any sense of that
      just because I keep an eye on you.  You don’t
      really think you’re in charge here, do you?
      You foolish, foolish, simply foolish one.

I dreamed I saw Walks as She Thinks
      give birth to Makhpiya-luta
      on a brushed deerskin blanket spread
      over a bed of sand at Blue Water Creek
      beneath a red meteor shower

I dreamed I saw Jim Bridger, old Gabe himself,
      marry a Snake

I dreamed I saw Margaret Carrington
      alive as you or me or Veronica.
First wife to the proprietor of
Carrington’s Overland Circus
who built Ft. Phil Kearny and put up
signs: Keep Off the Grass

I dreamed I saw the bigamist Grummond
      perish, enveloped by warriors,
      no one escaped to tell the tale
      and the woe of his widow
      the beautiful Frances, there within the Fort
      disconsolate even with Margaret’s merciful ministrations 

I dreamed I danced at Ft. Laramie’s
      full dress Christmas Ball of ’66
      rudely interrupted by half-dead Portugee Phillip
      at the conclusion of his four-day ride
      of 236 miles through raging blizzard, with his news
      from the Battle of the Hundred-in-the-Hands.
      His mount, Carrington’s Kentucky charger,
      fallen fully dead on the parade ground.

And then I dreamed I danced at the wedding,
Col Carrington’s marriage to the beautiful Frances,
      Margaret herself having succumbed to
      the rigors of military life on the lone prairie.

And still have a photograph of the Col. &
the beautiful Frances at the erection
of the memorial to Fetterman and his Fight in 1908
at the sight of burned-to-the-ground by
(guess who?) Ft. Phil K., roughly
the site of present day Cheyenne.

So somebody did get out of there alive.
Including Red Cloud, promised one beautiful
reservation on the Platte as reward for a ceasing of
his warlike labors, sufficiently bribed to
sit out Sitting Bull’s subsequent losing cause.

V. Postscript, South Dakota

Red Cloud eventually (was) traded down to
a second beautiful reserve on the White,
and then reassigned to Pine Ridge.

You can drive through the Rez today
on highway US 18 and if you approach from
Nebraska 87, right before it turns to
SD 407 you could stop to buy beer
in White Clay, and cross that line
to find a grateful recipient, or two . . .
or some vigilante First Nations dude
who thinks you bringing that as wampum
is not such a great idea after all.
You also might not. In that case, drink
it yourself, Pilgrim, it will do you no great harm.
They ran out of mini waken, let alone Taos Lightening
long ago.  Or try highway 18, or even old 18, that’s
pretty interesting, or any of those BIA roads:
2, 41, 33, Allen Rd., Hisle Rd.,
SD 2 or 44, something the sentient
need to figure out for their own selves.

You are sentient, right? So you go figure it out.

Understanding you could very well be wrong.
Are in fact likely to be.  Lots of wrong got done
in that whole sad Self-Destructive Zone.

I know that song, I told Veronica.
Laura Ellen used to play it, she reminded me.

“They turned what was into something so disgusting
even wild dogs would disregard the bones.”

It was the last time she told me what to do
      as far as I recall.

I wouldn’t mind hearing from her
      with other orders
            some other time.

It might even turn out better
      the next time around.
            Although I doubt it.

             *  *  *

Prairie Elegy Discography
James McMurtry, It Had to Happen, Sugar Hill Records, 1997
Jimmie Dale Gilmore, One Endless Night, Rounder, 2000
Country Joe McDonald, Thinking of Woody Guthrie, Vanguard,             1969
The Band, Music from Big Pink, Capitol, 1968
Joan Baez, Woodstock Soundtrack, Atlantic, 1970
Devo, Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!, Warner Brothers,             1978
Ian & Sylvia, Four Strong Winds, Vanguard, 1963
Laurie Anderson, United States Live, Warner Brothers, 1984
Johnny Cash, Mean as Hell, Columbia, 1965
Drive-By Truckers, Brighter Than Creation’s Dark, 2008