Last Letter Home & People of the Sky

Gina Williams

1. Last Letter Home
Nebraska, 1936

Dust plume in the distance
rising above heat-shimmered hardpan
signals the mail truck

Family gathers on the porch,
mother leans into wind,
kids kick clods in the yard

Driver pauses at the turn,
hates these desperate stops,
continues on to the battered mailbox

Pulls another tattered envelope from his bag,
places it inside, lowers
the red metal flag

A thin blonde girl walks barefoot down the drive,
weathervane on the barn shifts
west, east, west

Later, mother says
Papa’s not coming home,
a terrible accident

But the truth she keeps is,
he’s alive and well, lost to gold fever
out west, chasing the big strike of ‘36

Day fades, colorless
windmill turns and turns, prayers for rain,
hogs squealing hopelessly from their pen


2. People of the Sky
Alvord Desert, Oregon

Obsidian flakes shimmer
in melting wax sunrise.
Snow-dusted Steens Mountain

Tse Tse-ede—
the cold one
glows rose and amethyst to the west
Toes curl against cool temple floor
of cracked, windswept playa.

Coyote tracks
in dried mud lead me deep into the sage.
We’ve claimed this place, but perhaps it cannot claim us—
land of the Tsitsiadi—those who live in the cold

A spark catches my eye.
Amber-colored bird point
at the base of an ant hill,
a tiny glass spear in my palm
no bigger than a dime.
Worlds collide in the soft, silent belly
of a dust devil.

Hush.
You can hear them singing.
Thousands of years between this craftsman
and me. All that dreaming.
Tonight, we’ll slip beneath our wool wedding blanket,
watch the Milky Way explode
across the sky, cling to one another
listen for ghosts as our rock tumbles
in eternal orbit
around a dying sun.

I'm a Portland, Oregon-based writer and artist. My writing and visual art have been featured most recently by Juxtaprose, River Teeth, Okey-Panky, Carve, The Sun, Fugue, Palooka, Boiler Journal, Whidbey Art Gallery, Black Box Gallery, and Great Weather for Media, among others. http://ginamariewilliams.com/

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