The stampede of History

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The stampede of History
occurred on this site in 1872
on this prairie—flat, enduring,
tasting of noon sunshine
and its black, black shade—
where the dusk-blue flowers of History
previously blossomed.

We have been living backwards
toward that day ever since–
forgetting that first giant step,
the big blue marble the color of History,
and the light of a thousand atoms
that smelled as black as History
and roared in our sovereign bones.

On that day in 1872, which was a day
like any other, the cicada chant
of History will be heard in the land
where lately the lightning blossomed
and the concomitant thunder rolled
like enormous cannonballs
across a flattening plain of History.

On that day, you’ll put on a beaded shirt
and ride through the fusillade
of soldiers—Sitting Bull
will be with you, and Jack Wilson,
as you ride, and the blue flowers
will part before you, the land
will rise up before you, and everything
will go down in History.

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Could you see it

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Could you see it
if I asked you to accept mere words for visions
and said there were all
the colors of a salt marsh?

If I told you, the sea presses
her white mouth to the earth

where the green of saltgrass
is a thousand yellows
the yellow of the sedge a million greens

and the black small flies revel in the muck
that lies at the roots
while each dragonfly stitches its portion
of the moment?

I am not arguing for or against God
my only revelation is
the blowing fog
the smoking sun.

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I have a dream, during which I find and lose the key to America

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I thought sure
I heard Walt Whitman singing up America
And all around him I saw America taking shape like columns rising up out of blowing fog
And like a barbarian who finds himself in the ruins of the Acropolis at dawn, having bolted from place to place all night lost in the blowing fog,
And seeing the ghostly columns rising up all about in the false dawn, but the real dawn always came thereafter,
And hearing all about the sourceless prayerful muttering felt his heart rush up in wild surmise
Only to find the Parthenon was a bank building in Youngstown, Ohio,
Only to find that the prayers issued from a series of speakers playing back a commissioned installation piece, recorded chants of a tribe whose language was lost
Only to find that only the fog was real and that he was not even a real barbarian,
Only a stranger,
I awoke then in California
Where my awareness spread out around me like water from a cracked pitcher.

No fog, no America of Walt Whitman,
No dream columns of a dream America,
The glory that was Youngstown, Ohio gone and then forgotten like a dream that is forgotten like fog when it is gone and forgotten,
Allen whom I never met dead, his America where I lived briefly gone,
Walt Whitman silent here, voiceless in California, the redwoods rising up like columns taking shape out of blowing fog,
The only America here my America
Still not finished rising up out of the sea.

 

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Would we had

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Un—, un—, un—,
Nay, nay, nay,
Fie, fie, fie,
Stay, stay, stay!

Such were the songs we said and sung
When the world was full and we were young.
Would we had dug in our heels and heeded
The silent center we craved and needed!

But came the sibilant prophets of Yes
And Aye, and Too, and Sure, I guess
And Oh, why not, and What the heck
And never a thought of rue or feck.

Would we had gone to the end of the track
And not beyond, and then turned back!
So much to learn, but we were clever
Why shouldn’t we want to go on forever?

Would we had died when Death called Time
Not borrowed breath for one more rhyme.

 

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Do not leave traces

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When prayers are offered, do not leave traces.

Jesse Biakeddy

The dusty gods are made out of sand and pollen,
colored sand and different kinds of pollen
according to their nature, it is their nature
that determines what they are made out of,
what they are made out of does not determine their nature.

Sand and pollen have made the dusty gods,
with wind and sunlight they have been making these gods,
it has taken forever, that’s why these gods are immortal.

Now I wipe away the sand and pollen, look, now the dusty gods are gone,
you will have forgotten about them before my song ends, look!

 

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You will never be able to

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“The dancers themselves are careful not to disturb the trance subjects while their souls are in the spirit world.”

James Mooney, The Ghost Dance Religion and Wounded Knee (Characteristics of the Dance)

You will never be able to strip away the spirits of the dead from the living.

As well try to use a net to carry smoke
As well try to remove the destination from the road
As well try to pull a single strand from a spider’s web

You will never be able to strip away the spirits of the dead from the living.

See where bright motes are dancing in the spring air
And you have parked your car on the sand near the ocean
The ocean rises and eats the land
The land rises up out of the ocean again

You will never be able to strip away the spirits of the dead from the living.

Somewhere a single flower has sprung up suddenly in a meadow already full of flowers
Somewhere a star is burning the universe
Somewhere the body of a red-winged blackbird is being disassembled by ants
Somewhere a girl plucks a single flower and discards it

You will never be able to strip away the spirits of the dead from the living.

You have tried to make your song without any singing
You have tried to make your dance without any dancers
But now Spider Woman is making her web again

You will never be able to strip away the spirits of the dead from the living.
You will never be able to strip away the spirits of the dead from the living.
You will never be able to strip away the spirits of the dead from the living.

 

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The Dead

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In this dance with the spirits of the dead, no formal dress is worn.
All ornaments are cast off in the dance, no drum
Or rattle is used, nor is any other instrument required.
She has been at it since yesterday morning,

Look, now it is full midnight, look, now another morning has come!
Surely she is dancing with the spirits of the dead
Surely she is dancing with the dead who never grow tired
Surely she is dancing this morning with the spirits of the dead!

 

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Puella Mea

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she was a marble
she was a plate
a bowl of stars covered her
a moon danced for her and her alone
she was a womb
she was a grocery store
her children loved her
her children wrote graffiti on the walls of her house
she was whimsical
she took her time
the wind blew across her
the unrelieved desert sun drove her to despair
she took her lumps
she was excessive at times
she wasn’t going anywhere
she doesn’t care what you think about it

 

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I dreamed the streets of Katmandu were full of flowers

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I dreamed the streets of Katmandu
Were full of flowers
As the earth-mother mountains
Were shrugging off their glaciers
While a sea rose up somewhere
And vultures dreamed of feasts
But a young woman smiled and said
Nothing’s too much to bear
And sure enough she had sung
Her child to sleep
And the streets of Katmandu
Were full of flowers.

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I Shall Certainly Need New Clothes

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I was going to write a poem that would be
lighthearted as fuck, oldfashioned
as a villanelle or a sonnet after Petrarch,
and the title was going to be something
tongue in cheek, especially if you knew me,
but even the hypothetical reader most innocent of me
still would have a solid idea
of what it really meant, because after all
there’s nothing wrong with being obvious
which is an oldfashioned virtue.

Anyway the poem I was going to write
was probably going to be titled
I Shall Certainly Need New Clothes
or something along those lines, something
insouciant and fatalistic at once,
blind to neither the rising seas
nor the beauty of the plum trees
that are blossoming earlier every year.

 

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