by Martin Murie
(Swans - June 18, 2007)
Two falcons scream over Steamboat Mountain.
I don't know the Shoshone name.
I don't know the Arapaho name.
"Out, out" is the gist of the falcons' cries
lofted by cliff edge updraft.
Low sun highlights truck tracks.
Methane-well tenders more numerous now
webs tightening, Empire turning
on itself gnawing homeland.
Long, long before horse arrival buffalo
were driven over these cliffs.
Shouts, arms raised, lances shaken.
Men and boys must have pitched in with
women and girls, skinning, scraping, trimming,
drying in pungent smoke.
Sweep of worked stone on hide, grain of muscle
pull of tendon.
Flesh, hide, stone, blood.
Fires threw gleams on dark dry grasses
Flicker of desert night inhabited.
We stand against cliff top wind
in falcons' screams.
Scents from sagelands, grasslands
pine and juniper.
Here, now, presences.
* * *
Jet black obsidian beauty
a bit askew, nicely nicked
for firm lashing.
A gopher shoved it into sunlight.
And this, a bird point, finely faceted
thin, smoky translucent
steep talus east of town.
And this, white stone, notches squared
from a high pass, Jarbidge Mountains
where elk still travel from one drainage
And this, found in road gravel
basalt mesa country where bobcats
and coyotes pad lightly the dry ground.
And this, stone knife, Black Rock desert
burnt umber and wild rose.
I keep them in a Florentine box
made for tourists wandering old places.
Of Euro descent, choice not mine
to walk these homelands.
I have seen strange sights.
Stone knives, lances, arrow points
behind glass where travelers stop for fuel,
coke and candy.
Artifacts in air-conditioned galleries
on fine fabrics under soft lights.
Huge dry rattlesnakes caged in mesquite
shaded roadside zoos.
Paintings like movie sets.
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