Oregon Trail, Missouri

francine j. harris

(November 9, 2016)

 

O trail up outta here, how long ago
            you started to wander, crawling milkweed
through dependence, in grope toward sprawl
            dominion. Rather red in your rove from southern transition,

thick of land use, what soft you carved of forest to get through
            once dirt and fur and blood of original American and bloody-scrape knuckles
of emigrant pioneer. O what you woke from sleep. Dogwood drift
            loud and settling toward expanse, like how a pride’s breath

            can move blossom to shiver and roll over false aster, shape
border from its river source, return to river as fat pocketbook, mussel
            of critical habit, long breather and muscular foot
under cypress and promise of tree. O path for packed wagon

            who dragged black slave alongside conduit, some salt
of new breeze, who swore deciduous freedom, and relented only upon lawsuit
            in new land you opened to. O route to burrow, you,
like pipeline, leak the grease of wayward stream. Trade off

            and pick off growth in the way. How used, you. When
blue-promised god, some Negroes took up pack and white man’s pack,
            and given distance of black body to statehood pith, only made holy
states away. O what became you was over, the leaving grip bragged
 
            all the way to the sea, already plundered and exhausted
of Shoshone patience and homesteading what hellbender
            you’ve become. What uprooted clearing. Stray cattle worth
whole encampments in fool’s dust and deed. O what haven from man

            who believe in America, only all to himself? Imagine

a way of shape that doesn’t strangle. An arbor
            of its very own leaf. Now, imagine
tern and piping plover that keeps expansion
            along its shore. A settlement for spring’s deliver, not pipeline.

Imagine redbud staying put in its breeze and keeping us safely
            strong as trees and dark as the bark of our open souls. Imagine
the park of evergreen surrender,
            to a calmer, blue sky our govern might protect.

Imagine bald eagle again, not because white-headed
            but imagine bird, simple body of eager sea, talons
stretched over gold proportion. In summers, thick shiner.
            In winter, undisturbed darter along somewhat snow, unstressed

by factory and loud humming fuel. O prairie of blazing star, imagine
            full caves of left alone, unraided buffalo
clover, unhelped. Unfringed orchid, unwestern. Imagine
            ground hallow, free to forage

its riverine root and plant vigor along the Missouri.

More by francine j. harris

The neighbor’s buddy watching my screen through the window

Because the tube is turned to the window, the neighbor’s buddy         coughs
a cough of pigeons. a hack of grackle. a bird out the window. It’s         like

the neighbor’s buddy on my ledge, smoking. The neighbor’s                 chum in the blinds,
the eyes that peer, the eyes that open. propped and sunglassed.         a kind

of smoking blackbird, an inveterate

tombirder. His leather wings are splayed. his rock in the cold.            He has one foot on ice porch
and one foot wiggle. one foot rockerbird. a one-foot band. His            cough is the cough

of the myriad smoker, the murder of smoker. There is quiver of         murder. His cough
is the cough of a white boy, northern. of a Michigan leather. of           the white boy jacket,

his leather like hair. The air is gray like cig smoke. gray like ash.
gray with the onset of northern porchlike spring and its                       porchstep rain. Wet

and snowy, the neighbor, his buddy in leather. like me, in                     leather. In a wet snow,
rocking. in a porch band leather. leather in April. April wet and         still, one foot to the other.

Single Lines Looking Forward. or One Monostich Past 45

The joke is orange. which has never been funny.

For awhile I didn’t sleep on my bright side.

Many airplanes make it through sky.

The joke is present. dented and devil.

For awhile, yellow spots on the wall.

Obama on water skis, the hair in his armpits, free.

I thought the CIA was operative. 

Across the alley, a woman named Mildred.

Above the clouds in a plane, a waistline of sliced white.

I don’t sound like TED Talk, or smart prose on Facebook.

These clouds are not God. 

I keep thinking about Coltrane; how little he talked. 

This is so little; I give so little.

Sometimes when I say something to white people, they say “I’m sorry?”

During Vietnam, Bob Kaufman stopped talking. 

The CIA was very good at killing Panthers. 

Mildred in a housecoat, calling across the fence, over her yard.

If I were grading this, I’d be muttering curses.

The joke is a color. a color for prison.

Is it me, or is the sentence, as structure, arrogant?

All snow, in here, this writing, departure.

All miles are valuable. all extension. all stretch.

I savor the air with both fingers, and tongue.

Mildred asks about the beats coming from my car.

I forgot to bring the poem comparing you to a garden.

Someone tell me what to say to my senators.

No one smokes here; in the rain, I duck away and smell piss.

I thought the CIA was. the constitution.

I feel like he left us, for water skis, for kitesurfing. 

The sun will not always be so gracious.

From the garden poem, one line stands out.

Frank Ocean’s “Nights” is a study in the monostich.

Pace is not breathing, on and off. off.

Mildred never heard of Jneiro Jarel.

I’m afraid one day I’ll find myself remembering this air.

The last time I saw my mother, she begged for fried chicken. 

My father still sitting there upright, a little high.  

Melissa McCarthy could get it.

Sometimes, I forget how to touch.

In a parking garage, I wait for the toothache.

I watch what I say all the time now.

She said she loved my touch, she used the word love.

In 1984, I’d never been in the sky.

My mother walked a laundry cart a mile a day for groceries.

Betsy DeVos is confirmed. with a broken tie.

Mildred’s five goes way up, and my five reaches.