V  P  R

Contemporary Poetry and Poetics




                    Idaho, 1952

Grandfather's voice grumbled up from somewhere deep,
remembering a steam locomotive

that belched and crawled, bug-like, across the big-sky's
bottom rim the day a slow-stepping pinto

dragged a travois into town, its weathered hide,
speckled black, spread taut between two whittled

Lodgepole Pines, which flexed as the hide sagged
with a man's weight. At the edge of town,

four Lakota Sioux slipped from their mounts
and began to dig in sacred graveled ground,

swung picks and chopped volcanic clay, sloughed through
the shells and ash. They worked in sun, in sweat,

in silence. An hour later, they heaved,
and when he hit, face up, loosed arms outstretched,

he hollered Huh! Grandfather shuddered
with the exhaled force of the dead man's word.

I held their breath.


© by Greg McBride


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