Last Name

Prairie Fire - - GERALD ARTHUR MOORE -

He arced the slen­der oak branch down;

pinned it un­der a rock,

two cen­turies later, at this bi­fur­ca­tion,

a pe­cu­liar el­bow emerges from the trunk.

Roots are a ribcage that wrap around

the edge of the foot­path,

or a bony hand reach­ing over the lip

of the es­carp­ment, mark­ing it.

Be­low, a cave open­ing, where fire starters

have tapped flint

to fry cat­tail and hick­ory ban­nock.

Then rest on smooth doe­skin hides,

un­der mul­berry ink draw­ings,

rock carv­ings, and names.

Four generations of your fam­ily sleep

against these walls in the layer of soap­stone,

in this se­cret os­suary of mem­ory. That too

is all about to die, my son.

Here, Fin­ley, take this awl and scratch your name

be­low mine. Look, your aunt’s name is there too;

who was taken when I was a boy.

I came here to cry and dream her back to life,

re­mem­ber­ing that beau­ti­ful dark lone­li­ness

that I was too young to un­der­stand.

You will be the last, be­fore the earth­movers,

be­fore the shape shifters come here to dig;

Cater­pil­lars and track load­ers that will col­lapse

our se­cret cave; can­ni­bal­ize this beauty for a box mall.

A café will over­look this wa­ter­fall. White noise,

white peo­ple;

where a chain-store will have the temer­ity

to sell dream­catch­ers.

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