Song of the West
I am the buckskinned, whipper snapped, tawny-bearded
trapper, leading my pack mule, pausing at a ledge along
the backbone of the Allegheny, hunting beaver whose
fur wears well in the coats and hats of the eastern dandies.
I am the grizzle-faced graybeard sporting a repeating rifle,
leading a shooting expedition of a hundred men
into the great prairies, the corpses of the buffalo piled up
alongside the tracks of the transcontinental railroad.
I am the distant son of Meriwether Lewis
and William Clark, traversing the great rivers, Ohio,
Missouri, Columbia, led by the ghost of Sacagawea,
pregnant and persistent, ambling the shapes of those blue
highways to the Pacific.
I am The Nez Perce and the Shoshone, giving food and
comfort to the white strangers. I am the Sioux and
Blackfoot who know better. I am the people of the Crow
who steal their horses. I am all the plains natives who will
die of disease and violence.
I am the fifteen year old Pony Express rider between Saint
Joseph and Sacramento who answered a newspaper ad
seeking "Young, skinny, wiry fellows, not over 18. Must be
expert riders. Willing to risk death daily. Orphans
I am the dance hall girl in Dodge City, ten cents a dance;
what will you get for a dollar? I am the desperado, detritus
of both sides in the war between the states. I am the rancher
with a thousand head spread over a hundred square miles
I am the profiteer, rounding the Horn to Sutter's Mill,
seeking my fortune in gold. I am the Irish laying track on
the railway, the Chinese cook, the exile from Europe,
the vaquero from Mexico, all those poor sons and daughters
of the eastern ghettos.
I am the settler, my life savings invested in the Conestoga
wagon creaking and ruttling across the prairie to Nebraska.
I am the settler's wife hoarding my cache of seeds to grow
in the earth so that we can leave our bones, thereby
fertilizing the land.
I am the child of the settler, inheritor of the sap that flows
west. I will stand at the Pacific shore, wishing my father
were here, imagining that his spirit has already arrived,
watching me through the eye of the California condor,
circling above those scarping cliffs.