for Daniel Murphy
I’ve laid a red rose on my grandma’s grave.
I’m watching Tora, Tora! and Midway
to honor boys who sailed so far to save
my unborn ass. It is Memorial Day.
Fonda, Heston, Coburn, trochaic all,
Mitchum, Holbrook, Selleck, heroic names
like gunshots glancing off a canyon wall.
They played in movies, not the deadly games
wagered by medics, bombardiers, the grunt
following tanks through France’s falling snow
to make our lives of leisure. What a hunt
for dogs of war! Seventy years ago.
The film flaps on its reel. Now like as not
I’ll screen Patton and cheer for George C. Scott.
You’d pipe pulverized lignite through a slurry
to Houston, load it on to supertankers
and do it all without the aid of bankers.
Your only child you named Catherine Missouri.
I think it’s high time, friend, that you remarry.
I’d love to see four little Clays run riot
until the lights are dimmed, the house grows quiet
and I write quatrains for the folks we bury.
You are the great thinker of North Dakota.
Poet Speaks Truth, I’m named by the Lakota.
From “People of the Cranes”
III. Mari Sandoz
They’ve taken wing to fly over your grave,
Gordon, Nebraska, site of your father’s ranch.
I found you when I had no soul to save,
none that I knew, just major wounds to stanch.
Cranes overfly the plains, so cruciform
that fool I was, I heard the battle cry
of Crazy Horse ring through a thunderstorm:
Mount up. It is a good day to die.