Elegy for Michigan

as much as i would love to believe
that you can conjure up dreams beyond
those of leaving your lands, i have seen
or dreamt none myself.

* * * * *

i heard of times when people like my grandfather
saw you as Moses—leading him from the fields
where his fingers were pricked up stems
as Hebrews were whipped and bound—

my grandfather was bound by roots as fetters
but you gave him a Drinking Gourd
shining through the dusty darkness
with steal and welding sparks;

but, like Moses wandering through the barren trials,
you died right before he reached the Land
of Milk and Honey—to him, a paycheck
and a gazing upon his skin with blind eyes.

* * * * *

i see your babes whirring down the highway
over broken beer bottles, paying no regard
to the grasses your exhaust blows upon
those once-firm stems.

* * * * *

winter is a span from the falling of teeth,
worn out from chattering—
thighs are sore from attempts
to remind us all that not all is barren.

i pity you but i pity the children
born into your frigidness, who see nothing
but blinding flakes and reflections of sunlight
which leave them squinting, unable to open their eyes—

they enter not seeing the darkness,
thy grey slipped into the sky from smoke stacks;
their first breaths are clogged by soot
and they will never know the meaning of a breeze.

it breaks my heart, really:
they emerge in a burst of aliveness, writhing pulls
only to find no light, no sun, no breath—
only gusts that tear our flying flags in two.

* * * * *

i pray for every deer i see in the road:
i hope they are alone, we'll end their suffering
but their ends, i hope, will not bring morbid misery to more
by our engines or our fingers on a trigger.

* * * * *

my uncle stayed with us one Thanksgiving
as his wife threw his belongings out on their lawn—
he was out of work and i was out of room,
exiled to the sofa for weeks.

he left before i was awake, i never saw him
though i heard he slept downstairs, in my room,
in my bed—this shameful things lay where i
found my own shame with my hands nights before.

when he left i found my room distraught:
the smell of tobacco and a flannel hunting jacket
left on the floor
next to a discarded shotgun shell—

i could not touch it, i could not let my fingers
make it blow; i could not feel the metal in my hands
nor could i see the spot on the floor where it lay
until my father came to pick it up for me.

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