Memoria


Coming across North Dakota plains,
sunlight sifts against the bluffs.

Grass turns orange, brown,
sky turns itself to dust-

colored evening. I
look over my shoulder.

My great-grandfather rides
the horse he came for,

brown mustang,
ridden only by him.

I realize this isn’t
how it would have happened,

that instead a boxcar
would have been hired,

that he’d have had
the money to go back

and not had to hitch
his way as he had West.

But tonight, it’s what
I imagine, and I

am on a horse of my own,
galloping just ahead.

I turn back to him,
and it’s as if I knew

he’d been there
all along the journey,

he’d been there,
just behind me, before.

As I ride, I wonder
who is this man,

what are the stories
he was told to live:

when to plant
the harvest, when

to return to home,
to his children, wife,

and at what time of year
should he aim to be here?

I look back to him,
dirt dust-clouded between.

Over the sound of beating hooves,
he looks over his shoulder.

I ask after what he sees.

Jeremy Michael Reed is a Ph.D. candidate in English and Creative Writing at the University of Tennessee. His poems and essays are published in Oxidant|Engine, Still: The Journal, Valparaiso Poetry Review, and elsewhere. He is the editor-in-chief of Grist: A Journal of the Literary Arts, associate editor of Sundress Publications, and assistant to Joy Harjo.