A BRIEF INFORMAL HISTORY
For us, there was never a Harry Houdini
who escaped from the boxes or from behind
the Bureau of Land Management fences.
There was Jim Thorpe, who ran in circles
better than anyone else. He ran like a caged wolf.
That was something we all knew.
Great fists rose from the west, drifted over
the plains and pounded us with thunder
as though we had always been corn
waiting to be reduced to meal in the unfurling fields.
Out of the east the real fists came.
From within the snowstorm of lies, we heard
tales of our own resistance. But we heard
too, the names of our fathers embossed in chrome
on the fenders of cars, on the labels of alcohol,
in the lonely glow of neon above cafes. We heard
the death song coming from the sky, loud
and piercing the way a bird of iron might sound.
And all our ghosts. Those boys who went to war
and fought like there might be a freedom hidden
somewhere in blood. They came back to our open-
armed ghostfathers, their faces yellowed
and parched by the long poverty of their lives.
Our boys went back to being unneeded as a stone—
waiting in the desert, petroglyph for all that is lost.
—from Inner Cities of Gulls (Salmon Poetry 2010)