Clara McLean: “Glueworks, Michigan, 1892”




A mountain of bison skulls
waits to be processed.

They’re piled in incongruous
symmetry, tucked together

with care, faced forward
to display each naked shape.

One man stands at the base
of the pile, in a hat, watch chain,

arm out as though leaning on a house
he’s built. Another is posed

at the top of the mountain
in profile, holding up

one gleaming horned head
so it stares at the camera.

His leg rests on a thousand faces.
Even the tongues

bring twenty-five cents,
on top of the bones, hides, hooves, and meat.

Men dispatch the herds
from the tops of trains, which slow

for the leveling,
railroads warning of harm

the beasts do to the cars
and tracks, just completed,

when they charge
in waves of thousands,

tuft and brawn
livening the grasslands

with the thunder and bellow
of hoof and tongue.



Clara McLean lives and teaches in the San Francisco Bay Area. Earlier poems have appeared in Rattle, Cider Press Review,, Foglifter, West Trestle Review, and Berkeley Poetry Review, among other publications.

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