If I Laid Them End to End

That old guy with the muskrat soup
slurps it loudly from the ladle
Hoowah, pretty good stuff!
You shift your weight on the stool
raise the bad leg just enough
and retrieve the red bandana hankie.
Talk still spills like sunshine
over the knife-marred counter
as slowly you wipe the can
push the cloth back in your pocket
and cough down the grape pop
glancing at the bobbing black head
where it surfaced in the pot.

The burned farm. That hungry year.
The long walk from Strawberry Mountain
warmed now with the weight
of fresh butchered wiiyaas in your pack.
Mum’ s baking soda biscuits mixed and cut
lined waiting in the tin pan
like our little kids’ faces at the window.
Sure took the wrinkle out of our bellies that night.

One opening day when those two old fishermen
ended up drunk clinging to the canoe.
The hunt for diamond willow,
beaver camp on Easter weekend,
the whitefish feeding on wax worms,
the string of crappies slipped from your hand,
the missing outhouse floor,
training waaboose,
feeding the least weasel,
tales from working on the ships,
from boiling sap, planting trees, pounding, carving,
and then the cigar box memories
of those old time Indians
who could really tell stories...