Salt Lake City boasts white tabernacles,
half-filled parks, a mineral 
highway, and archives so vast
they fill mountainsides.
One summer, we researched our family
genealogy there, surrounded by giddy Mormons.
Their screens flickered with famous 
relatives: a Custer, Jackson, Theodore,
Kit. Nothing came up on ours, 
so we went and got burgers at a place
that sold no liquor. The burgers
were okay. But we shared our shakes
and secret smiles and imagined
ourselves renegades in that room.
Old-West-portrait: an Indian girl
on the run with no records and no documents,
her wind-whipped father clutching
his sarsaparilla. We had infiltrated
the saloon and city hall. 
I locked eyes in the burger joint
with the confidence of a pistol-whipper.
The room stirred.
It smelled of grass
and gunsmoke.
I would not be moved again.


Copyright © 2023 by Kinsale Drake. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 5, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets. 

About this Poem

“With this piece, I wanted to write a love poem to both sides of my family based on a real experience that my father and I had in Salt Lake City. We had the biggest laugh when we searched our family tree and no famous relatives came up! Of course, we knew that his side was descended from Irish potato farmers and my mom’s side was Diné farmers from southern Utah. It felt really liberating, in a way, that they had no record of who we were in a place so intent on labeling, surveilling, and knowing everybody’s business. I think the most beautiful thing is to find humor and such wildly imaginative stories in mundane moments between loved ones.”
—Kinsale Drake