Bio Note: I earn my living as an art dealer and appraiser in the Hudson Valley. I also garden and keep bees. My poems, essays, and reviews have appeared in Able Muse, Poets & Writers, Tupelo Quarterly, the Washington Post, and many other publications.
You sounded just like your mother when you said that. My wife, in conversation Her last two years, she did not speak, then death sealed fast her lips, and fire consumed the lips completely. What could still today remain of her, whose ashes go to ground beneath a dusty Texas family plot? Her genes, of course, passed down, survive. I see them in the wary smile my niece presents. They hold their place within my daughter’s deep-set eyes and delicately sculpt the chin upon her new great-grandchild’s face. Yet more, incredibly, survived, for when the elemental stuff that formed the individual went back into the melting pot, a part of her remained alive, escaping from its human cell. Evanescent as a breath, a voice first heard in utero outlived its owner to become a lasting presence in my speech, transformed, yet recognizable, in strictest sense, my mother tongue.
Seated around their campfires two days out of St. Joe, hopeful, thinking themselves steeled against all woes to come, they hear the scout rebuke their confidence, “Keep your eyes peeled — from here on, we’re in Injun country!” Sight and sound become distrusted, blurred by fear. The land and its inhabitants unite to speak as one: We Do Not Want You Here. The warnings in those Westerns taught a child, a day will find you drained and plodding, mocked by brutal sun, your every hope defiled, while high upon the ridgeline stands a troop of hostiles, wearing war paint, arrows nocked. They watch you, stony-faced. And then they swoop.
©2022 Reagan Upshaw
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