archives fall 2007



At Genesee
             September 15, 1779                   Western New York

Two weeks before, Barton’s party
opened fire on the Iroquois,
then skinned two, from their hips,
for boot legs—the ones that warm

his ankles now against the morning,
as against the cold of last night’s march
into Chenisee Castle, where Lt. Boyd
was waiting, his head beside his body.

It appeared to have been whipped
in many different places,
a great part skinned
leaving the ribs bare. The cramped hand.

Now the light plays like cannon fire
across his face, sun
musketing through leaves.
And if he thinks of a Genesee

riding warm beneath Boyd’s leather,
if he wonders at the cool
on the dead young rifler’s
missing head, no one can tell:

the orders are, as always, from above—
The whole army employed
till 3 o’clock, gathering corn
and burning it in their huts.

To starve the Redcoats’ Redskins,
the word from Sullivan, from Washington
at West Point, writing I am led
to conclude he has completed the destruction.

The huts burn down,
and now the heat settles through
vest and kerchief, strong enough
to keep the fogs at bay tonight,

so Barton can forget the extra skin.
Boyd is buried now, with honors of war.
A few slim ears
roast beside the fire.



A penny would stretch to an ear
     in the heavy spark,
hold the freight of all that sound,
     a boxcar on its back,
a dead man hoboed there.
     It would gleam like polished rails.

You found the stone, a coal-dark
     lump in the railbed’s slag,
this piece of glass or shiny black rock
     that holds your face.
Its Coke-bottle cuts
     rhyme the coin’s cancelled edge,
the one you wanted flattened.

     From the bluff above the track,
the tunnel’s push smells like sickness,
     the hum of swollen ears
rasped wide, snap cold shocked
     by thunder. And when the train
rolls, storm over the snow-grey

             shards of obsidian wake
then gather to a cloud
     of breaking glass and boxcars
singing off the tracks then burnt
     to an iridescent feather,
the train a starling
      in the wing of the flock,
its one, twisted syllable
     flown over and over again.


DeSoto, After
October 19, 1540

Night, smoke braid in their braids,
thick as native, their campfires dying

maps of a town remade in fire,
the spread of coal and ash behind them

where a thousand Alabama lie.
Every twinkle here’s another

ambush’s vesper, glint of a dancing girl’s
pearls enameled new in moon. And then

an arquebus pushing from the pines,
another armored Spaniard risen

from the dead, provision yet, another friend.
But quiet closes every movement

till the embers blink, two thousand eyes
awaiting signals deep in Maubilla’s night,

the flank’s ten thousand teeth
ten thousand pearls lustered bright with fire

gold as the gold that sparked this all,
a heat even gauntlets cannot stand.


In Arizona When Howard Finster Dies

The Catalinas do not rise
          like George Washington,
and the sand paintings do not rhyme

with revelation exactly—
the pyrrhuloxia no messenger
          or mourning dove

but a cardinal burned white, calling
          quick, quick, through the mesquite,
the marl. There’s no help here,

like you said, No Fire Extinguisher In Hell—
just a creased Apache raking leaves
          from the sand

and sculpted gravel of the university
          grounds, tattoos flexing
Ruegme o abrase. Off east,

the coppersmiths work on,
          and the kiva fires go up
over an un-Englished landscape

as I look through the paloverdes
           and agaves, the limetree
and the palm, and pray

for the North Georgia forest
and the bank account in the hill
          and that other,

unraked garden for my Bible
and the credit card swipe behind
          the Sunday word.

Even now, as the saguaro
          raise their arms against
the day’s last burn, needling stars

over the glass catastrophes
           of the mountains,
into the wound night gauzes

like a cloth of brown recluse,
          even now, old man,
even now, I feel the heat.  


Jake Adam York is author of Murder Ballads (2005, Elixir Press) and A Murmuration of Starlings, (forthcoming, Spring 2008). His work has appeared in various journals, including Blackbird, Diagram, Greensboro Review, Gulf Coast, H_NGM_N, New Orleans Review, Shenandoah, and Southern Review.  He lives and works in Denver, Colorado, where he is presently an associate professor of English at the University of Colorado at Denver. With students and colleagues, he edits and produces Copper Nickel.