That tiny figure in the distance, an eighth of an inch tall,
Is my husband walking back from the ferry,
Picking up the groceries ordered from Skibbereen.
He's walking down a serpentine hill that rounds
The harbor wall. Soon he'll vanish as he climbs
The two hills this side of me, then suddenly,
Around a hedgerow of blooming blackberry,
Fuchsia and grasses, he'll appear nearly full-sized,
Smiling, cheerful, holding out the twine-wrapped box
He's carried two kilometers. I like him so close
His face becomes obscured in my near-sightedness,
And at this eight-inch size as well, his distinct gait
Visible even from this distance, so that I can spot him
In a crowd the way a mother sees a child across
Several playing fields, in profile, even from
The back and knows it's hers. He's known by me,
Although, at times, he surprises me as he did
Last night when he picked up a rock and smashed
The mortar sealing a farmer's gate latch because
He wanted access to private property, so damaged
Property to get it. So out of character, this act,
It's taken me aback. Back to where? To the time
Before we came into one another's sphere, strangers.
Perhaps we never know the one we think we know
So intimately, the unpredictable predictably to erupt
And dislodge our preconceptions, the way the heart
Of life is erratic and wild, and each of us is autonomous
And free, and I've yet to speak to you of my dismay.
Butte, Montana, 1997
Manhattan, Montana, 1988
A Sioux woman, at
The gasping plea for mercy
of a wounded U.S. soldier who until
he fell from his horse had intended, tried,
and failed to murder her and all her clan,
said to him just before she struck him finally,
"Did you not come all the way here to be killed?"
DURING THE OIL BOOM in the late seventies my father worked offshore on the Halliburton rigs and rig supply boats out of Morgan City, Louisiana. Before that, although I was too young to wonder about it, he didn't work at all, and after he got his hand crushed in a chain boom during the winter of 1980, I don't think he worked at a job again. We were not poor. My mother stayed at home and cooked for us, and we lived in small, decent rental houses, never apartments or trailers, although the houses were very much out of the way, sunk into the swamps north of Grand Isle, or on the far outskirts of Lafayette, or, once, briefly, out in the country way up by Monroe. It was a time when there were a lot of families shifting from place to place in Louisiana and Texas, and nobody paid us much attention. My father always said that we lived out of town so my mother could have a garden, and she always did, but of course that was not the real reason.
When I was almost fourteen my father was arrested for the robbery of a small branch bank in Lake Charles. He was caught at a road block on I-10, along with two partners who had been frequent visitors at whatever place we were living for as long as I could remember. My brother Shawn was arrested a few days later. He was a helicopter pilot, just out of the Army, and back from the invasion of Grenada, and my father and his partners had hired him to fly over an abandoned warehouse and a field of dry broom grass while another of their partners tossed out flaming jugs of gasoline. The fires worked to divert the Sheriff and the Lake Charles city police, but the State Police got everything sealed off much faster than anyone had thought. Shawn had a good lawyer and a lot of luck, and got a suspended sentence. The courts were full of adventurous young dope smugglers just out of the service, and the judge was fed up with sending them to jail. My father got twenty years at Angola....