Minnesota Poem  
         

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Irregular
Conjugations

   

Here where space and place collide,
on the Great Plains, America's tabula rasa,
the territory is a map to be erased,
the past is history to HIGHLIGHT
- Delete - Delete - Delete from memory,
- Delete from collective consciousness.

But what are these bones I see
embedded in the permafrost?
Whose blood do I smell in the ice
melting across our bleeding Heartland?

Highlight the INDIAN BURIAL MOUNDS
built on high ground above running water,
 - deleted by malls and highways .
Highlight the spirits of 38 LAKOTAH WARRIORS
- deleted by mass execution.
The defiant dreams of generations
of immigrant ANARCHISTS and SOCIALISTS,
- deleted by a brooding constipated Nord
who stealthily fingers his liberal guilt
through the pocket of his designer jeans.

Here in Minneapolis, whose very name reveals
the forced conjugation of Hellenic upon Lakotah,
the streets run to endless horizons
to peter out in stubble grasses
still wet with the blood of the conquered.
Here all things cry and bleed in silence.
Telephone posts weep a tarry sap
remembering when they were a forest.
An old man cries at bar closing time.
Outside the cold air drops him like a mugger.


Why have I returned to this land,
still raw from glacial scouring?
where we scratch at the thin spaces
between the ice and the clouds closing in,
between mystery and paranoia?
Because the very cold and emptiness
engender a horror vacui
which forces us to connect and to create.
We clutch at each other for warmth.
Portraits of my drunken ancestors
tilt askew in the respectable homes of strangers.
So for a moment the houses and streets
grow rich from our unlikely exchanges.
As when, in that frozen night
my car sat dead on Lake Street
under a pink fluorescent sky.
Two strangers in a pickup truck
stopped and hauled forth
twinned cables of orange and black.
An electrical surge passed
to this jaded hipster.
and my car came back to life
with an apologetic cough.