Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, HUFFMAN'S PHOTOGRAPH OF THE GRAVES OF THE UNKNOWN AT LITTLE BIGHORN, by KAREN SWENSON



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HUFFMAN'S PHOTOGRAPH OF THE GRAVES OF THE UNKNOWN AT LITTLE BIGHORN, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Taken a year after, in '77
Last Line: Turning silver in the wind.
Subject(s): Death; Little Bighorn, Battle Of; War; Dead, The


Taken a year after, in '77,
it shows a slant of bluff
littered with white horse bones -
pelvises like a child's game of jacks.

The men are under the buffalo
grass, the canted sign -
made from a hardtack box -
scrawled, UNKNOWN.

Toe crimped, one black boot
heels into the ground
among the white bones.

In the lamp and bourbon bottle we share, you,
whose 17th birthday present was Pearl Harbor,
describe the graves near Normandy,
flocks of white crosses -

"What would they have done," you ask,
still on your first Survivor's Leave granted in '41,
"with another twenty, thirty years?" -
the old scar on your cheek called out
by shadows beyond the lamp.

That year I memorized "Adeste fideles,"
a song I learned without understanding
the words, and the teachers told us
to put our heads between our knees -
the whole school a fear of slivered glass minnows.

Last year I climbed the bluff,
paths and markers neat as Clausewitz,
read how squaws "cut off the boot legs,"
the Far West was draped in black.

I bought Huffman's photograph of
war's bare game:
one black, boneless boot.

But from this height, Little Bighorn
is a wind of cottonwoods:
their leaves, schools of fish,
turning silver in the wind.





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