Posts Tagged ‘history’

Some people say there’s nothing out there,
nothing but plains and the Platte and the sky.
A whole horizon of nothing,
and a barbed wire fence to hold back
all that nothing. But when you drive
through that nothing
perhaps a young scrappy man
on a half-breed mustang
will ride through your thoughts,
and hand you a letter
from one hundred sixty years ago.
For you, he’ll say with a tip of his hat
before he gallops away toward the west.
What might the past have to say to you
sent via Pony Express?
Perhaps something about
the beauty of nothing,
or how the road you choose matters.
Go ahead, friend, what are you waiting for?
Open that letter.

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old lilac bush

beside the highway

scent of one hundred springs

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Age of Expansion




Almost all I remember of seventh-grade history

is sitting in the back right corner

where I could lean my head against the wall

and look as if I were listening.


Those were the days when we still learned

that the Europeans had “discovered”

new worlds, and the indigenous people

were “found,” implying a subject/object relationship.


I never thought to question Ms. Estes about the terminology.

I only knew how desperately I wanted

to be discovered—preferably by Ron Didonato,

though he barely knew my name.


It was mid-semester when the note

arrived on my desk, passed along the back

of the room. Though the handwriting was messy,

the blue-ruled paper was folded neatly.


It was from the boy in the back left desk,

wondering if we could go together.

Circle yes or no. I certainly didn’t want

to be found by him, but I also


didn’t want to hurt his feelings.

Ms. Estes, up by the green chalkboard,

rambled on about European dominance

of a non-European world,


and meanwhile I prayed that an ocean

the size of the Atlantic might appear

in the middle of the classroom

so I could fall in or sail away before the bell.


It was only a few years later that history books

began to use the word “encounter” instead of “discover,”

which implies a reciprocity—though it doesn’t

change the fact that the Europeans


conquered the lands anyway and killed

and displaced those they encountered.

I remember I didn’t circle anything.

I remember I wrote something


about a boyfriend in a different town.

I remember the weight of the lie.

I don’t recall if I looked him in the eye

when I handed him back the note.


For the next five years, neither of us

ever mentioned again the encounter, perhaps

grateful for the ocean that rose between us

every time we met.

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Trail of the Ancients


Of course I imagine my own ruins
as I wander through the remains
of the towers built by the Ancestral Puebloans
at the edge of a high desert canyon.
Someday about seven hundred years
from now a woman with her two children
and her husband could be walking past
what is left of the river rock chimney
that stands at the center of my house.
She might run her fingers over the stones,
wondering, as I am now, why the people
left this place. And were they happy here?
And what songs did they sing? Her children
are probably tugging at her arms, begging
her to go. Please, they will say, this is so boring.
And she will agree to leave, but she will take her time,
her eye landing on a shard—it’s from one of my green
dinner plates. She picks it up, a real find.
She wonders what kind of food I ate.
And what kept me awake at night.
And if my children were easier. She drops
the green shard in her pocket and rubs
the sharp edge against her thumb.
There is never enough time, she thinks,
as she turns from the chimney toward
the voices somewhere further down the trail.

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