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Evidence: 1A, Item 1

To those who plead Not guilty I say: a poem

is a field. Exhibit #1: I haven’t said a thing

about my hand in murder. I repeat: a poem

is a field. And inside this particular field a man

yells “Hee!” to urge a bull toward the border

between the unpaved earth and the road.

When the bull reaches the end of the field,

the animal turns. The man, my uncle, gets up

early to start the work and finish by noon

then polish off a bottle of rum at a card game

with his boys. But first, at some point, the bull

will get tired and my uncle will hitch a second

bull to the plow. The poem is a field. What enters

the field enters the poem—the man, my uncle,

his several beasts, the plow. But then a boy,

my cousin, comes running to tell my uncle

a man is dead. The bull stops working. A man,

a bull, a boy are standing in the middle of a field

and what’s entered is the news of a murder.

The boy won’t bring the name of the shooter

though he knows who he is and who paid him.

The man, my uncle, looks out at the hills then

at the boy who brought the news and who is

weeping now. If I think I’m not guilty then

how come you still don’t know where I stand.

The ditch is in the field. So is the road. My uncle

yokes a third bull and moves on. In lecture halls,

I was taught I can make a field appear. I was told

to erase myself from the field. And then, just

outside my family’s smoky village, I entered

a real field with hip-high cogon grass. I followed

my uncle and cousin who slashed a path. I carried

a real bucket and a real blade and three children

hurried behind me. They called this field holy

because it belongs both to the newly murdered

and the decades-long dead. If you’ve chosen

to erase yourself from slate, I already know

where you stand. I was taught to sweep the crypts

of our beloveds then kneel at their stones to rinse

their death dates with fresh water and scrape

with a knife the contours of each letter etched

in granite until our family’s name came clean.

from Brooklyn AntediluvianFind it in the library

Copyright © Persea Books 2016
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Persea Books.

Published in Patrick Rosal Poems

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council, a State-based program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this (publication, website, exhibit, etc.) do not necessarily represent those of the Idaho Humanities Council or the National Endowment for the Humanities.