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S. Donovan Mullaney

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Chief Sunday's Squaw
by S. Donovan Mullaney

Tuesday, December 05, 2006
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This poem first appeared in The New York Review; it also appears in my book, Follow the Wolf Moon, from MJS Publishing Group.

"Get up, get up," said my mother, “Chief Sunday's
Squaw is dead. Dig a hole in the yard.”
Tuesday morning we buried the llama.

I couldn’t close Sunday’s eyes all the way,
but three tugs softened her death stare.
A final shearing so mother could make a scarf
for my stepfather: “She’ll keep him warm when
chemotherapy makes him cold.”

Standing on the grave, I thought: the ground
doesn’t exist—just small particles suspended
in a galaxy of space, behaving as if they relate.

A scientist put an electron in a magnetic box
and split it into two protons, which he separated.
Apart, each kept circling, acting as though they were still
attached, still one thing.
Like my grandmother and her twin
sister, who would travel 2000 miles and arrive
wearing the same outfit in different colors.

I’ve stood on their graves too—
six feet below protons I once revolved around,
from “cuchy-coo” to “This time I won’t
pull through.” They’re gone; I’m already going.
Eighteen-thousand-dollar porcelain teeth
are all that will be left of me.

Sunday gave my stepfather a scarf, my mother a purpose
in the morning, me words that will last as long as paper,
or as long as bytes on my hard-drive remember
to stick together.

Emily Dickinson burned in private,
eighteen-hundred poems strong. Who knew?
Except death and those who stopped for her
after him. And now the rest of us.
Perhaps what she wrote
was a kind of karmic record—
God’s or dharma’s uncrashable, impervious
read-only memory.

We’ll plant an oak tree over Sunday. When it falls,
the vibration will have to pass an eardrum
to become a sound. Otherwise, it just falls.

New York Review
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