The Leather Tanner

Last night I had a dream

Of a man

Alone in the world,

Surrounded by dead,

Bodiless hides. The brown

Sky and the brown ground


I watched this man—

Made of the prairie clay

And grass, he seemed. And

Though he looked of the

Hideous land, there lived

Something beautiful in the dark

Creases of his eyes.


The words came.

Black, typed print that

Hovered about him, and flew

Like crows

In the sky. I read them, and that is how

I found his story.

That is how I found


His black words of lament

Amassed to form pictures of color—

Of rich lands and purple and blue skies and bright stars.

The pictures flipped by like pages in a book—

Pages from his memory—all about the Indian woman.

These pictures were a screen

And the dusty man and dusty land hid behind.

The beautiful woman's hair, like a black smothering wave,

blotted out the stars. See this,

The Leather Tanner felt again his love for her

In his hollow chest

That her absence hollowed for him.

Here, is when her eyes met mine

And her own letters precipitated and formed words,

But I could not read them,

I did not have to.

I knew she had had to leave him

And cast him from those lands

But only a free woman will know why.

With the final image her lips parted as she dissolved

back into his words

that dissolved as well. He stood brittle and still in

The dust, as if dust himself. I prayed

That the wind would not come, for he looked

As if his particles would blow away. And yes—

All was still.

Until a shrill whistle sounded—

Up he stared at me—

Down came the wind and blew all away.

All of him,

For there really was nothing much to carry.

Everything spun and spun till everything had spun

Into a book.

I found myself in a rich green room

That I had never been in before--

Sitting in a chair with

A book pressed hard across my cheek—

With a pounding in a hollow chest.

And when I woke and felt my familiar bed, I felt

The hollowness was still there.