Daily Archives: September 30, 2015

More Than Boards And Nails

Originally posted June 10, 2015.  Revised, 9/30/2015.

More than boards and nails
will be needed 
when the ashes cool
and it’s time to start over.

I must not relent
from my dutiful masonry,
the bricking of word
upon word.

When we’re all weary
from the work of rebuilding,

people will call for something
preserved from the past 
to freshen the present
and speed the future,
to remind us all 
of fragrances
that preceded
smoke and ruin:

scents
of roses,
clean earth,
unpoisoned rain,
infant hair,
a lover’s neck;

flavors
of what we had once,
what we’re again
building toward — 

the stuff of poetry.


A Thief Of Rest

I once,
as a boy, 
owned a cane 

crowned 
with the ball
from the top of a femur.  

Grew sick inside,
once I was grown,
to learn it was human;

from its age and provenance
was likely taken from
a Native grave 

or perhaps sheared fresh
from one fallen in battle,
massacre, or misadventure, then

turned into a trophy like a necklace 
of dried ears or a tobacco pouch
sewn from a tanned scrotum.

When the cane was stolen 
not long after, I was at first
relieved, then soon enough

unsettled, thinking of how
heads and scalps were stolen
and traded and monetized

in those days of first conquest.
I imagined it in an ignorant hand — 
or worse, in the hand of one

who knew exactly what it was
and traded it for crisp bills 
to another who knew it too.

There are nights I wake
with my hand outstretched
seeking — absolution? redemption?

a chance to bury it
in the earth where it belongs? No.
I fear sometimes

that if it were
to return to me
I would hold it and claim

it had come back to me
because I am the unique
and rightful keeper

of such things,
though I know
in my own bones 

such a thing
to be horrid
and untrue.

How lovely it would be
to lie to the dead
and allow myself to think

I am any less 
a thief of their rest
than any other

who would take it, 
have it, hold it,
keep it as if it were their own.