Clade Song 2

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.


George Kalamaras is Professor of English at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, where he has taught since 1990. He has published six full-length books of poetry and seven chapbooks, including Your Own Ox-head Mask as Proof (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2010) Gold Carp Jack Fruit Mirrors (The Bitter Oleander Press, 2008), and Something Beautiful Is Always Wearing the Trees, with paintings by Alvaro Cardona-Hine (Stockport Flats, 2009). His book, Kingdom of Throat-Stuck Luck, recently won the Elixir Press Poetry Prize and will appear in late 2012. He also recently won the New Michigan Press/DIAGRAM Chapbook contest for his collection of poems about the West, The Mining Camps of the Mouth, which also saw print in 2012. After living many years with their beagle, Barney, George and his wife, writer Mary Ann Cain, have welcomed a new beagle pup, Bootsie, into their home.