- A Seneca Boy
Conceived at knifepoint by Rufus Crow (who cut her afterwards anyway), born of Clara Johnnyjohn in the back of a Chevy pickup in 1952, six years before she threw kerosene into the stove and blew all your brothers and sisters beyond recognition to freedom, you, Martin: we knew you, all your five years long.
We heard the paper crackle, witnessed you, Sleepwalker, pissing your innocence into the wastebasket at the Reservation School. We lived to see you wear the golden star for a full day’s inexplicable goodness, your last full day: we found it crumpled in your fist, who were first off the bus when you were hit by the honchee’s car.
We coveted your first new clothes, new shoes, new pillow, blanket, and box: we, looking in, saw you, Marty, there, then, as now we see Lana and Leonard and Corliss, David Owl and George Heron, Esther Whitepigeon, Richard and Cecil, all your burned and barefoot brothers, your scalded sisters, say to you now as we did then: Proud son of Beaver, rise. Resist the heave of your body pulling you down in its falling, down onto Mud Turtle’s back. Call out to your brother Snake to coil about and hold you, float you spreadeagled above this quicksand, protect and warm you against this sudden freeze. Come another spring, you shall enter the lake to begin building.
Works by Daniel Barnes
• At The Riverview Hotel (December 1957)
• A Seneca Boy
Daniel Barnes, a native of the Allegany Indian Reservation at Salamanca, NY, is Associate Professor of English at the Ohio State University, where he has taught folklore and American literature since 1968. His poetry has appeared in many journals, including Ohio Journal, Dreamworks, Poems & Plays and Riverrun.