The Round-Up

The Round-Up

The Round-Up

Arts has moved! You can find new stories here.
A weekly poem, read by the author.
Nov. 10 1999 3:30 AM

The Round-Up

What happened--old as the hills, ancient as the ax,
the horse, water in a clay cup, dirt under the fingernails.
The river forgets the fish and the winter sun slides
beyond the far hills. All of them had mothers, and all
the mothers sang while swimming and as the women sang
the birds left the trees which ringed the water
for the clouds where the distance whispered a different dream
than the dream dreaming this

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dark afternoon. The men were boys not that long ago--
delicate, confident paddling alongside their mothers
through the hot afternoons.
The water dark green with splash and shout--
summer just a whistle and gone.
Of course, the night will still hold stars,
the moon's journey, the planet's orbit. There will
always be nests, branches, the swaying and the saying.
They have names and are men exactly like you
lined up in jackets, boots and caps--
cold with the waiting.

It is unbelievable, even some of the soldiers
begin to sob. Trucked out to no-where
are doctors, lawyers, plumbers, builders, bankers.
It is winter, snow rides the collapse of clouds.
There are just shades of brown and grey,
a line of trees--a dark scribble
like markings done by a child.

As each man is shot,
whether he drops backward
or to the side
he forgets us, his own name, this place,
civilization
like the kiss

in the evening at the lit threshold
whose intent was to swear return.

Karen Fish is the author of two collections of poems, The Cedar Canoe and What Is Beyond Us. Currently, she teaches at Loyola College in Maryland and is at work on a novel.