Literary Refferences in Smoke Signals

“Dear John Wayne”

August and the drive-in picture is packed.

We lounge on the hood of the Pontiac

surrounded by the slow-burning spirals they sell

at the window, to vanquish the hordes of mosquitoes.

Nothing works. They break through the smoke screen for blood.

Always the lookout spots the Indian first,

spread north to south, barring progress.

The Sioux or some other Plains bunch

in spectacular columns, ICBM missiles,

feathers bristling in the meaningful sunset.

The drum breaks. There will be no parlance.

Only the arrows whining, a death-cloud of nerves

swarming down on the settlers

who die beautifully, tumbling like dust weeds

into the history that brought us all here

together: this wide screen beneath the sign of the bear.

The sky fills, acres of blue squint and eye

that the crowd cheers. His face moves over us,

a thick cloud of vengeance, pitted

like the land that was once flesh. Each rut,

each scar makes a promise: It is

not over, this fight, not as long as you resist.

Everything we see belongs to us.

A few laughing Indians fall over the hood

slipping in the hot spilled butter.

The eye sees a lot, John, but the heart is so blind.

Death makes us owners of nothing.

He smiles, a horizon of teeth

the credits reel over, and then the white fields

again blowing in the true-to-life dark.

The dark films over everything.

We get into the car

scratching our mosquito bites, speechless and small

as people are when the movie is done.

We are back in our skins.

How can we help but keep hearing his voice,

the flip side of the sound track, still playing:

Come on, boys, we got them

where we want them, drunk, running.

They’ll give us what we want, what we need.

Even his disease was the idea of taking everything.

Those cells, burning, doubling, splitting out of their skins.

Even his disease was the idea of taking everything.

Those cells, burning, doubling, splitting out of their skins.

“Forgiving Our Fathers,” a poem by Dick Lourie

How do we forgive our fathers?  Maybe in a dream.  Do we forgive our fathers for leaving us too often or forever?  Maybe for scaring us with unexpected rage, or making us nervous because there never seemed to be any rage there at all?  Do we forgive our fathers for marrying or not marrying our mothers?  For divorcing or not divorcing our mothers?  And shall we forgive them for their excesses of warmth or coldness?  Shall we forgive them for pushing or leaning?  For shutting doors?  For speaking through walls, or never speaking, or never being silent?  Do we forgive our fathers in our age or in theirs?  Or in their deaths?  Saying it to them or not saying it?  If we forgive our fathers, what is left?

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