Now that Split the Crow is in print, most journals won’t be interested in publishing those poems in their pages. Literary journals like to have first dibs and I didn’t get a lot of time between submitting this manuscript and holding the finished book in my hands. Which is fine by me. I’d rather have the book than a handful of single poem publications. Many of the poems in the collection never reached the pages of literary journals, so I figured I’d post some here in a weekly series; a little sneak peek at the contents to entice you to get the book. By the way, thank you to all who tried your luck at winning a book during the very quick Amazon giveaway. I don’t know who won, Amazon keeps that info. private. But I know 20 people entered and a few of you may have purchased books because, for a short glorious 30 minutes or so, I was hanging out with the likes of Louise Gluck and Mary Oliver as #14 among women’s poetry on Amazon. Heady stuff. Amazon stats change rapidly. I’d have to sell a book every second to keep that ranking, but for a few minutes I was livin’ the dream:)
The poem These Holes is one of two poems with this title in the collection. The first These Holes appears in the beginning of the manuscript. This one appears in section two. I was reading about Confederate Cherokee doctors during the Civil War. Many native southern tribes fought on the Confederate side as sharp shooters, scouts and doctors, the term Peculiar Confederacy referenced the alliance. I have a poem by that title and think I’ll throw it in as well. So, here are the poems Peculiar Confederacy and These Holes. Send me a message if you can hear the allusions to another poem by another poet (not contemporary) in Peculiar Confederacy. Again, I apologize for the wonky double-spacing. WordPress likes to have control of the ‘return’ key, or it double spaces. And I had to use dashes to give the poems a little breathing room, else they’re smooshed-up against one another.
You turn our bones up
beneath your plows, ghost the trees.
Our shadows barely reach your knees.
We hike through swamp
to retrieve your slaves. Call us
sharpshooter, scout, medicine man.
We cut to the thigh to save the leg. So
how do you like your Indian now? Say how
white we have become, how American.
To rasp willow splints for baskets,
draw strips through the eye
in the hip bone of a deer
over and over
until the green willow splint
is soft as hair.
Trained doctors amputated and debrided
bone. Cherokee doctors treated the lesser
wounds, soaked strips of slippery elm
in cold water until pliable, then passed the strips
through bullet holes, especially in the chest.
Dirt, blood clots, bits of bone
from other men, stuck to the elm’s mucilage. The pieces
were drawn like cloth run through the eye
of a gun, until the open wound was clean
as flesh can be, as the watery eye of an unsealed oyster.
Maybe the doctors’ faces hovered low and intimate
over their patients. Maybe they applied pressure,
packed the holes with more herbs, said some words.
Maybe the words were those of the Indian
in that Jarmusch movie, gouging the bullet
from the outlaw’s chest with knife and fingers
chanting a little, muttering: stupid fucking white man.