Trafficke: An Autobiography


n (1611) 1: an act or process of transporting 2: a 
strong often intensely pleasurable emotion 3: a 
vehicle used to transport persons or goods 4: a 
transported prisoner
I keep looking for an animal who could be you, looking for flash of fox, or a
horse standing thirty yards off in twilight: you are something else, a fence
maybe, and the fox goes under and the horse keeps away, so as never to admit
he's not free, and by then it's full dark, August dark, the moon's not up, so a deer
coming down to water through the chamisa inhabits only its sound and becomes
a bear: forget about fear: it lives here, it isn't you: the dog hardly bothers to
growl. Come morning I'll walk up the road, looking: you don't wear shoes
anymore, your tracks might be what's left when I pick up nails. Pretty soon I'll
sleep, but not dream about you. The horse came closer just now, I can hear him
breathing, I can see starlight on the barbed wire, so can he. You know how this
feels, how a voyage expects to arrive. You knew when the bow opened sea
through ten thousand geese you had seen God, were doomed. Here's faith, you
said, and began to draw longitudinal lines on the cattails, bug-dry in August: the
animal who could have been you was a cottontail rabbit, whose nest you crushed
pulling stumps in an Indian cornfield: it was what you could do: take three
wives, open up a new plantation every seven years, write a learned treatise on
exhaustion. This is what I can do: define hogshead, find the landing place, stop
smoking: I am allowed one horse, one bear, one deer: I'm reading this poem to a
dead cottonwood: it turns out there must be two to receive the spirit: the one to
speak and the one to understand.

This is what the spirit can do: stand a little back, keep time, save tears, for in dry
country water comes like a guest: I came here, I think, to escape you, but you
have made good on the family promise: survive, come back, gather by night
where the day is dangerous. Your animal has tracked me down, your signal fire
ignites in my eyes when I close them, I come when you call, back over a
continent not fully mine, to the edge, where prayer, driven out of tobacco, took
up the sword: all the way down to the landing that bears your name: there a
woman half black, half Indian, coughs into her hand an idea, and I have to
watch, I have to take it from her as I took from my mother milk. Do you
understand? I can wait here for moon to finally rise, I can watch the deer
ignoring me, the horse asleep in the shadow of August stars: shape of a bear, her
child: I can name those stars, the ship, body parts of a horse, plantations 
misspelled into place on the ruins of Indian towns: I am only allowed one name
and I have to choose it, I have to go in, lie down, in the morning look out, say
black squirrel, Cassin's finch, mule deer, imagine that this is inhabitation. I
know what you fled: one hundred and seventy years our name outlawed, the
face a sediment laced with bone, blade: look, I can dig that up as well as you, I
can hum the begats, I keep a museum, shelves: of beheadings, thefts, babies
delivered at sword-point into snow: I descend from them all, a miracle: twelve
thousand of us testify in twenty-one spellings, the name broken up like a ship:
vines near the shore, winter: tree limbs like broken rigging run by rats.  There:
I've said it: in rat middens thirty thousand years old, scientists read our history:
this is ecstasy: you magnified to the size of a finger bone.

Rosita, Colorado

Indiana Review, 21:2 (Fall 1999)

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