Return to Mankiller Flats, Oaklahoma

Mary Crescenzo

Another Trail of Tears,
from our Adair, Oklahoma farm to San francisco,
moving us again, to live in a hotel
and work a strange land.

Objects of the blue-veined are foreign to native hands, telephones and elevators, skates and hula hoops and the TV. My sister and I read aloud, imitating sounds of those who fit, becoming fluent in the San franciscan tongue.

The memories of pie suppers, my mother’s garden,
the ever present stranger in greater need
whom Dad would bring home,
now provide my direction on the return trail.

There have been other trails, of broken bones
and lifeless limbs, ones of crutches and determination,
others lining the heart, wrapped and suspended between trees.

Further trails of tears, bleached by erosion
from white-eyed stares, once inroads forged by Cherokee women who ruled the tribe before our traditions
were blanched along the way.

On this land, still marked with familiar footprints, I return
to fight a war, not on the battlefield but in the empty pockets and bellies of those whose spirits walked before.