Sunday, May 11, 2014

Jeanette Rankin Hall

My palm is on the outer wall
Of the restored two-room stone
Home labeled "Adams House"
In Utah's Dixie South, built
By Mormon settlers sent
By Brother Brigham to prevent
Any Civil-War era over-dependence
On cotton from the warring states,
An immaculate box of pink sandstones
Roofed in slate, with two chimneys
And white cornices in the Virginian
Style imported by those masons
Converted along the way.

Cottonwoods refuse the February
Wind, refuse to bend or sway
Their stunted heads along the creek
That feeds the reservoir from which
Today one hundred thousand thirsty
Cattle and their cattle-eating humans drink
Or draw water for their baths and lawns. I sway,
In my usual, unsteady-ever-since
Childhood way, balancing against
Such cut rocks as I look up
Into the fast blue scudding past red cliffs.

Thirty years since, I taught my first
Class, a dropout myself, and thought
The same damned thoughts as now
In Montana's Rankin Hall: how trivial
Is this history that squares
Its corners with a plaque,
Compared to these dropped rocks themselves,
Cut and stacked for us by us in alternating cells.

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