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I am descended from a people

who used dictionaries

to wipe blood up off the floor.

If you think that’s insane,

look into your family tree.

If you don’t find that dragon

Columbus roiling in his gold

filigree, keep looking.

Someone set his neighbor’s

house on fire because

the neighbor would not

let him in the door. I am

descended from a people

who threw women into water

and when those women

turned into the spewing

towers of Hawaii, my people

ventured there off-season,

drenched in sunscreen,

their noses squinched up

at strange odors. I have

visited the cathedrals

they built to keep the memory

of those women at bay.

Their roofs are now all open

air, and I’m fine with that,

though it’s unfortunate

their makers couldn’t see them

like this, goats passing through,

birds shitting on everything,

because they could not have

looked any better new.

I am the fulcrum of a history

built on fear and best intentions.

I am the predecessor

of a people who know

scrubbing off the bird shit

will only accelerate decay,

yet they spend their mornings

arched up to it, whistling

every falling side wall clean.

I am the predecessor of a people

who will hold a bent stick

into the air and go walking

whichever way it leads—

a trick I pass down to let them

seem less lost. It is not a right,

though for them it will happen

like it were one: irrefutable,

brutal, god-given, free.

from The Newest Employee of the Museum of RuinFind more by Charlie Clark at the library

Copyright © 2020 Charlie Clark
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Four Way Books.

Published in Charlie Clark 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.