If the telling would have its geology,
a siltstone, its measure in sheaves,
it must also have the wasting:
the free-fall of blocks or clasts,
or the sudden, en masse release of bedrock,
or, the slurry-like descent of scree or soil.
And I have had this dream:
A yellow, concrete talus flows to the window,
inside the room, pinned against its hardnesses,
we wait, as the furniture begins to creep across the floor,
a matrix of fine striations, the bureau, the bed, the carpet, the walls.
These are the planes of foliation.
Nebraska. Fort Sedgwick. July 11, 1869.
Our march this day for the first twenty-seven or twenty-eight
miles was westward, and this brought us nearly to the South Platte.
First, a swelling. Then, a lacery of unpainting—All indications being very
fresh, we took up the march at a gallop, up hill and down hill, through sand
which covered our horses’ fetlocks and we kept it up for ten miles. At this point, the
Pawnees who were in the lead suddenly halted—
It is an unmending,the surface rising, the weight, now, forward yet
brittle, casting back, this glittering text, stuttering across its repetitions
as if grappling for holds,
as if to nail it shut,
on top of,
indiscriminate in its progressions.
We dreamed of our fortunes. Of tilling the earth.
Up hill and down hill and up.
I was looking for a story: July 1869
Powell and his Men: Drowned! The story of a ruse.
The command halted and the majority
of the officers advancing to the top of the hill which we had been ascending could plainly
see the Indian camp between three and four miles off. A few minutes’ rest here
for the horses and off we went again, this time at a full gallop.
Suspended, swollen, the story falls open in pieces.
As if it could not mend the usury of its stitching. Inside
the smell of microfiche unraveling: Colorado Expedition Ends In Disaster:
Risdon, the lone survivor, relays his loss:
A moment saw the boat commence whirling around, and like a living thing
dive down into the depths with its living freight.
There. Do you hear it? The work in it?
This slanting toward some use, and then—the purchase:
It wanted here 20 minutes to 2 p.m.
and 2 p.m. saw us in possession of the Indian camp,
and the Indians with nothing but a portion of their herds,
fleeing for their lives away over the hills.
In vain, Risdon searched the rocks,
the rubble of banks, for bodies. Then, alone, he walked across the
Of course, the story proves to be untrue, a tale
in the grandest sense—many-tongued—ballast for the train ride home.
Never before was a surprise
so complete. As if inside, the knots written into the lining, into
the weave itself, binding with the movement of its cloth—
you know this already: A brisk wind blowing from the south
(through sand which covered the horses’ fetlocks, the ponies
breathing hard, leather traces heaving, the metal joinages—no one
speaks) prevented the noise we made (all indications being very fresh,
and the dampness of their skin, the smell of sweat, girth straps tightened
make no mistake) a brisk wind prevented the noise
from reaching them.
(As the floor gives way, suddenly, he leans, half-lunging,
falling, through the center, toward her, and though she turns—
the air is gray with steel and glass, silent, concrete—and we—
alone, reach into the bent and bruised languages of collapse).
There is no choice. Only forward. Ten miles,
sand to the fetlocks. Rhythmic. Hot. It is July. The wind in my face.
You know this. The story reveals what is already there.
As if to formalize. As if to soothe.
The lid slides off, rolled and held in a laminated card-board box,
spooled, the premonition of dissolution, and the moment—
row upon row of boxes.The first indication they had of our presence
was when they saw us a few hundred yards off. Each dated.
By month. By year. Repeating. Repeating. Risdon, the runaway,
hanged as a horse-thief and a liar. It is the skin of the story.
It is my own voice, reading:
Our men behaved nobly and on they went right into the midst <
of them, nor stopped while one remained to meet their charge.
So. It is for this.
The light caught in a drawer brimming with words
in the basement of a cinderblock and stucco library. It is July.
———(Once, he imagined a brilliant escape—into the frantic—
table-cloths tied end-to-end—and yet—it is an enormous sky—)
At this moment
an Indian superbly mounted on a white pony was seen to dash from the herd.
He was about fifteen years old and we were very close to him before he saw us.
And yet—he drove the herd into the village ahead of our men
who were shooting. He could easily have got away.
And yet—at the edge of the village, he turned—
I append the results:
Fifty-two Indians killed, 450 head of stock captured, 8000 pounds of dried beef
destroyed, 650 buffalo robes destroyed, 86 lodges destroyed.
To this add all their cooking utensils, all jewelry and finery of all kinds,
many guns, pistols, bows and arrows, fourteen captive women
and children, and you have some idea of their loss.
In another story, John Wesley Powell, who was not lost, writes: We are
now ready to start on our way down the Great Unknown.
The Vishnu Schist is permeated with fine striations—
In the girders, there is singing—
At the edge of the village—
The men are to be commended for cheerful readiness
and good conduct.
As if from the inside—
As if the sudden vacuum—
The inventory—the ruse—
And the language—of the spoils—
And the glittering heat—
Heelprints—whirling to face—
The confusion that always exists in a surprise attack—
As if it could not speak—
As if it could not mend—
And yet, at the edge of the village—
Someone found a plain, cloth-bound ledgerbook, the kind commonly used by clerks
and accountants, filled with drawings of warriors in battle—
In sheaves—gathered to meet — whirling to meet —
(This book was captured.
(Each of us–