or can I call you Andy?
Not Andrew, but Andy as they still
call you back in Wood Mountain where
I first heard of you at the Ranch Rodeo Museum
But I could not buy your poetry there –
out of print.
You were already a year dead by that time
though I didn’t know that of course,
knew nothing about you at all.
Just a name that I remembered.
It was still some time before I actually read your poems
and found I had known them all along, somehow.
You were closer to all this history than I was,
could speak to them at the Trail’s End
where the blue smoke hung heavy and the
stream of bullshit flowed smooth.
But sprinkled in bullshit there is always truth
spoken outright, or to be gleaned.
You could speak to Soparlo and Lecaine,
and the Rumanians with the Old Country still
on their tongues, and the Lakota who remembered
Sitting Bull as if they’d starved next to him themselves
that winter in 1879-80, when they had to eat the horses
and still starved anyway.
You could tell the stories of people and places
in a way I never can, for it was closer then, more immediate.
Now it recedes, further and further.
Wood Mountain is deader than you remember
though alive still.
I am left only with ghosts, summoned from your stanzas,
their whispers more faint with each passing year.
Your ghost knows I am poor, as I know it.