Against the Barrel
It was here against the barn, against the barrel, Dad, as a boy, tipped forward
leaning into something double-cocked to split-ease his pain.
Sam upon him daily, riding ridicule, hanging wooden signs upon his shoulders:
“Cheap Indian Labor For Sale.”
He was not for sale. This, at nine, he knew.
Here, he'd thought of his sister, Rose, Rose, Sam had tried to trade
for a boot hook, in the days boot hooks were cheap, common.
Contemplating reason he might let go—
he considered the changeling, Sam, all the siblings certain he was
placed within their nest as though a brother. Here, against the barrel steel, he
deliberated his fury, his grasp, leaned
a little further into openness there, split shot sequencing—
Luckily Lucy, his hero-sister, came around this corner,
cried to him, “Don’t, ‘cause I won’t stop you, so they’ll just blame me.”
She knew his passion, knew his wrongings, knew decision—not.
Knew without her he would soon go right out of this world.
Instead, she sat with him while they pretended not to cry.
So we could pass here knowing, right here in this dust, she delivered him to us.
So we could pass here thinking of our father, his boyhood shame.
So we could pass here—
pass—here—against every Sam Scratch—
Pick up the long barrel, lean in, put it back down.
Ground dry as drain
in a place meant to grow
might break men to boys
women to grandmas early.
We can fix it.
Go now, rustle up a snapper
tsa la gu gi in your denim.
Wrap him tight till
cousin climbs a hill
gives him up to glory.
All you girls go wash your hair,
spend a while with the water
warmed in washpans.
Turtle hull your step.
Shake it slight.
All you girls go
Turn them over
wash the car,
it always works.