It Takes Awhile to Arrive [If Ever]

Diane Glancy

I don’t know why the cattle haunt me.
My father’s job was getting them killed.
Maybe it’s the ramp to the kill that haunts me.
But not that either.
There was life stuffed in at either end
like a sausage.
Maybe it was because he himself was next in line
and it was him who would haunt me.
We had our jobs passing each other for a few years.
Maybe it was our house at the bottom of the ramp
of a short hill that haunts me.
It was his life he gave soundly
as the spill of milk on the step
where the milkman left it.
I would go back with a Kleenex or a napkin
if I could wipe it away.
If I could hear the sound of dishes on the table
and an angry bull that kept it to himself
in the chair.
No, it wasn’t that either, but sweetness
gloating on the surface.
I tell you I could hear the hiss of water
though we lived on the great plains.
Maybe the waves that washed the house
were the swish of tails of cattle in the yards
where my father worked
and came home each night with the prod, the knife,
the work-apron stained with blood.

Snowman with Overlay

The boy made a snowman of white clay.
A showpiece
, his mother said.
The blue cap he punched with holes blown back.
He said the bill curled up in the air.

The absolute zero of the circle
of the snowman’s body
without the hope of anything to own
but the melting that is ahead
until finally you are left with the stick arms
to row you somewhere.

The Overlay of Explanation on a [Snowman] Piece

There were floods when the winters melted.  There were many rowings.  Mainly out of there.  When you know everyone is moving on without you with them.  Or you are moving into your own shade leaving them behind.  There were times between dusk and morning fog, I turned into an animal— a bear though none were in the country by then.  I remember getting out of bed on raw mornings— my bare paws on the hard wood floor, pulling on an undershirt and cotton dress, nearly growling with the cold.  Out of the loss, some rubble to make things of— even language took a hit but its subtle drownings can still be used in retrospect.  The mere images survive the walking edge.  I heard the chapped words call— we are here— we love you if no one else.  I saw their letters shape the winter air.  My bare legs shivered against each other, playing in the snow in galoshes too small for shoes, but my feet still fit, until they were frozen blocks I could hardly bend my claws.  My feet still cold years later.  Or if the slightest coolness in the air, they turn blue— is why I watch him make his snow man.  His baby of ice.

Diane Glancy
Diane Glancy

DIANE GLANCY is professor emeritus at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, where she taught Native American Literature and Creative Writing.  She was the 2008-09 Visiting Richard Thomas Professor of Creative Writing at Kenyon College.  A new collection of nonfiction, THE DREAM OF A BROKEN FIELD, was published in 2011 by the University of Nebraska Press.  In 2010, Mammoth Publishers in Lawrence, Kansas published her latest collection of poems, STORIES OF THE DRIVEN WORLD.  Her 2009 books are THE REASON FOR CROWS, a novel of Kateri Tekakwitha, a 17th century Mohawk converted by the Jesuits, SUNY Press, and PUSHING THE BEAR, After the Trail of Tears, University of Oklahoma Press.  In 2009, Salt Publishers brought out a commentary on her work, THE SALT COMPANION TO DIANE GLANCY, edited by James Mackay.  In 2007, Arizona published a collection of poems, ASYLUM IN THE GRASSLANDS.  In 2009, Glancy received an Expressive Arts Grant from the National Museum of the American Indian to write about the history of Native American education called, THE CATCH, with a focus on the 1875-78 Fort Marion Prisoners.  In 2010, she made an independent film, THE DOME OF HEAVEN, which won the Best Native American Film at the 2011 Trail Dance Film Festival in Duncan, Oklahoma.  The film is about a mixed-blood girl, Flutie, who wants to go to college despite the poverty of her family and low self-esteem.  Glancy is of German/English and Cherokee descent.  She currently lives in Shawnee Mission, Kansas.