The Pawnee Buttes
Antelope and dung beetles say your name, are that shame.
Here, in eastern Colorado, you leave the dead for dead.
Nothing good at your feet but frogs.
Their forebears include a fossilized three-toed horse.
Two buttes swell from out of the plains like a dichotomous lie.
All your life you’ve struggled to survive hardship and rock.
Right, wrong. Left, right. This way, that.
How to say it right without raking words.
Where is Keota and where is its saloon-shuttered ghost?
Towns this far north are wind-banging wrong.
Here is the stone-enshrined swine, a fleck of rock-breathing rain.
Ancient camels show you how not to hold the throat.
So, you’ve said too much for far too many?
So, eagles, hawks, and falcons fierce their nests as if a brushfire in your hair?
Nothing but these breeding-cliffed plains.
Wind in your belly asks why just two buttes, says live or left, rise or die.
Antelope flee the pounding ground of now.
Dung beetles somehow roll your name.
Colorado cornered, here, by Wyoming and Nebraska.
The ancient three-toed horse clasped in the insistent fly-twitch of mane and tail.
The Pawnee kept many horses here and daughters.
They were beautiful, painted for war, and drove the sons mad.
Columns of sandstone 300 feet tall.
They could leave your body here, you think, filthy and fierce among the birds.
First an eyeball, then a groin.
You watch a beak tear a tongue, leave you blind.