The Honest Tongue

Avoiding the stockade 
and bastioned gate
but inadvertently walking
over the site of the gallows,

estuary cattails pierce a lacy mimic
of the fort’s dark piked palisades. 
Red winged blackbirds harry 
a great blue heron who flies 

with a shiver of cracked 
eggshells slipping from its beak. 
Some languages 
reverse past and present, 

with sun and moon,
black lined days on the calendar, 
and the wristwatch’s ticking goad
all coiled at the root.

             First church.
             First sawmill.
             First school and lending library.
             First brace of public executions.
             First house of brick. 

Where do the great
orators keep themselves
at present? Where land 
takes its name first from 
its people then perhaps 
from the delicate mauve blooms 
of fringecup woodland stars.

Copyright © 2023 by Laura Da’. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 7, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.