Abbey White '13
I am from red clay, born with bare legs and elbows stained with dirt.
When the sky got too big to carry, I pressed an ear
to the ground, listening to the heartbeat that lay beneath.
And when the hoof beats of the buffalo shook my bones,
I knew it was not man who set the world to spinning.
I am from the open prairies where my hands,
small and starved and caked with dirt between nail and flesh,
reached down to grasp fingers belonging to a man
with a fiddle on one shoulder and a gun on the other, in a place
where the trees give way to the sky in every direction but down.
I am from the crest of a hill where I crept to his place, watching him
as he cried from his shoulder. It was the strangest sound
I ever heard, the way those horsetails cried— the bow looping
up and around, dancing, as he pulled that stick into song, singing
Oh Mary, Mary, will you marry me?
I am from a cloth village, possessing not what the brick village does—
skirts that reach my toes, corsets lacing me up like a cakíra¢ in a cage.
With my hair wrapped round like a little rock, at the nape of my neck,
he let a whistle escape from his puckered lips. But by the smudged mirror
I had never seen anything so ugly.
I am from a dowry of beads and buffalo skins and his house upon the hill
where he learned my real name. From making cornmeal with bacon,
stirring dough with my hands when he wasn’t looking, smiling
at his blue-as-the-water eyes when he was, and folding his clothes
with flour covered palms, as if a ghost had done the laundry.
I am from an imprint left on cornhusks and feathers, leaving him wake
to a clap of thunder and the sight of me standing in the doorway,
the wind pulling at my nightgown and hair I let loose. Rain drips
through windows, licking at his feet as he kisses my cold cheeks
whispering, Bright eyes, Bright eyes, why ain't you shinin' no more?
I am from stolen land, bought lakes, lost tribes, and captured souls.
Salt skin with blistered feet from blistering sand— a brown mermaid,
plucked from the sea, in borrowed gowns my ocean eyes stain with tears.