The Women of Kingfisher
Dusk. Before the House of Arum, Hay, half-moons, and hay. A fire floats like linseed oil across the horizon. Homelessness. A sacred grove. Women gathered with birdseed and clay. first chorus For what you ask us, if we hear you right— Then it must be winter. True, there are things we’ve seen not made of this earth: in the ice, the strange cry of a calf clings to the river’s borders. But young is not the strangest beloved, in the old fields, on the old roads, where no one watches the wind but watches its trail— the tail of a Blue Norther, Lord, known to knot an ewe’s wool before it’s shorn, fastest in its extinguishing. No, we were not quiet in our old hearts. In the sudden cold of our bedchambers and blackened noons, in the night’s known but exquisite spying. second chorus Ten years since the first winds walked across these yards. Ten years, the woman who watched her husband walk west, watching the Cimarron’s water— And we, the wives and mothers of strangers, of men who watched their farms and families fail, the men who spent crops for hills and salt water— Who should say the night knows only their bleakest, ghost-filled places? We saw the night beat into our strongest barns—yes, bleating— our daughters shrouded in linen and hay. Our men now dead of Dust Pneumonia, our men now dread as the cattle’s faces. A speaker steps forward from the first chorus, adorned in deerskin and face paint. She faces the women, hearing some sound beyond the clearing— a distant wailing, from somewhere within the woods. speaker I know a man mauled by the first kicks of a calf in Spring. Sister, he said, Sister— there are spaces where the water runs the length of a sober man. first chorus He said, Sister, a sober man. speaker He said, Sister, there are rivers where the calves crawl like crabs across the sand, rivers which covet the coins placed upon men’s eyes, and walk with a man’s children, and drink with the man’s wife. second chorus He said, Lord, the man’s wife. speaker He said, Lord, there is water where the wind eats the sparse and nameless things— its secret looks, Lord, the laugh of lean pasture, and riverbeds red as the cattle’s racked meat. chorus A grave and curious quiet, Lord! What carvings in dirt and death are these? What wind wound through the ash and apple trees? And hieratic, holy, the hymnal woods— What water prepares our coming? What rains will spare our fields? We’ve known what the river finds in its feeble sleep: When there was winter, there was mistle-thrush. God-rush. There was thistle.