“Directions” by Robert W. King

Robert W. King


Today the old grass around Fort Laramie
catches the drifting milt of cottonwood.
In the empty exhibit of the canvas tipi

the wind has brought it in and laid it down
on the floor as if it could be gathered up
and woven into a white blanket if there were

anyone here to gather, to weave. Overhead,
millions of seeds float by, galaxies
of milky cloud to the east, the prevailing breeze.

A train whistles once in the distance near
the sandstone ledges of the North Platte running east
while thousands of wagons worked upstream west.

Whether the rain is going east or west,
it will at some point turn and go the other way.
Only such machines repeat themselves like this.

The rest of us—wives and rivers, buffalo,
Sioux and Cheyenne, grandchildren, every dead
soldier, my mother, each fluff of cottonwood—

move one way and stop. Now, history moves
this way, of course. Oh, over and over again,
but still this single direction.

from Rattle #12, Winter 1999

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