I am not at home-
anywhere, it seems.
My house, my town, my skin
are all unfamiliar territory.
This is my 40 acres,
so I guess all I need
is a plow and a mule.
I will plant in this body,
with this body,
and a year from now
it will be called mine.

Shall I survey my lands?
I dare not uncover them,
I will not allow
anyone to see this landscape.
It is not even mine, in truth;
it is not anyone's- in truth.

I know that I
was formed this way,
tools and fingers
turned about this clay,
and so I will not change
although the weight of shape
has bent my back and dragged me down:
until I am done, I will not finish myself.

And is this my trial by
some kind of sun,
as I dry and bake in my
desert heat?
And will I fill with dust and dun
as the drought winds gloss by over me?
And will I see that glorious face,
that one that will make all this right?

If Degas took one look at me,
he'd have another masterpiece:
La Danseuse, mais...

and then he would forgethis native word for pain,
the tongue he spoke for brokenness
and would instead paint me a scene
of cliffs for skirts and mountain ankles sprained-
and if they hung me in the Louvre
no one there could label me
a landscape or a portrait.

The valleys of the Shenandoah
are far from Paris,
as my reverend taught me,
but somehow, perhaps he could
find that motion in my lips,
the long plie of my nose-
and then he would paint
a stage in the center of
my Dust Bowl stomach,
where would dance my Blackwater heart.

When I return from unfed sleep
(not long enough to rest my cares)
I waken from that
foolish dream
and turn away and begin
to plant my words in hardened ground,
ground I know nearly too well
for it is why I chose this land:
the dryness echoing my eyes.
Water burns both, touches
them and fades in steaming
soaks into the skin of this place.

I chose a land not my home.
(I chose a life not my right)
Forty acres
and one stupid, stubborn mule,
and I am ready to quit.

05.10.23