In Westport the small French cart
of the voyageurs earned the name mule-killer.

Once Shawnee was the lingua franca
up and down the Mississippi,

then mollassi became molasses.
For the bringing of the horse

it is said much can be forgiven: burn
of Missouri whiskey and aching molars,

lunatic fevers of cholera,
even those men

born astride. Rare beast to share
that weight on such fine and slender legs.


Copyright © 2015 by Laura Da’. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 1, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“‘Leviathan’ is drawn from a manuscript that examines the human consequences of the mapping and surveying of the American West and the politics of the Indian Removal Act of 1830. This poem references events and language pertaining to the removal of the Shawnee tribe from their traditional homelands to Indian Territory.”
Laura Da’