A Rock Trying to Stand

Monday, July 17, 2017

Ekphrasis after photograph bearing caption “The body of Big Foot, a chief of the
Miniconjou Sioux, lies frozen in the snow that covered the bloody battlefield at
Wounded Knee on September 29, 1890”

It has never been proven that heat rises
that copper burns green when set on fire. 

Spotted Elk’s head tilts back at the eagle-bone whistle
sound jumping from the hill of Wounded Knee. 

The squeal earmarks the edge of the South Dakota sky
sullen winds having looked right through the body.

Tongue—the spoon the ancestors hold
ladling the Great Spirit’s song as spittle

drops spilling through
the ivory teeth of clouds.

Remember the time the salmon committed suicide
their shiny eyes glowing slivers of silver in the dark?

Somewhere a man cries glass
in his blue Chevy pickup

visions forecast on a dirty windshield
sky splayed with exploded two-winged stars.

It’s a lie to think the rain is not hungry
the creek water flooding lickety-split

coming to lick the spaces between our toes
each crevice starved for crumbs of light.

The living rocks still talk in their sleep
supple secrets stored in cracks of eyelids.

Yesterday we walked to where the river runs
sideways like a twisting snake lost in its skin.

I felt a wild dog’s femur bone succumb underfoot
the way the hours bark at the moon to come home.

There is no word for “nature” in Onondaga
no distance between the life-support and life.

What is the chemical composition of a verb versus a noun
the dissonance between a coyote’s laugh and cough?

I have watched an ant nibble at the sun’s arm
having prayed beforehand—to avoid catching fire.

The brother I never had joined the circle of dancing
the neck of his beer grown warm on the truck hood.

Legend has it when the men first started to ghost dance
they numbered only a hundred or so.

But they were twice that number by the end
no one new having entered the ring.

That summer the buckwheat had shone like fox fur
the whiskered dead having arrived to take up alms.

The dust understands quantum physics
death coming of age in time’s memory

a body falling like grass before the sickle.
See the limbs frozen like stone stick figure

the toy Indian’s arms and legs contorted
ball-and-socket-like joints all askew.

An action figure abandoned in the Plains
winter’s sticky fingers soon cropping up.

Icicles ornament each note of stillness
like feathers dripping loss from thin air.

White sage embraces the nostrils’ ovals
the way life unfolds in a circle.

A bullet drums now in Big Foot’s head.
A red man is dancing in the snow.

Monday, July 17, 2017