Cherokee Removal, 1838 (ii)

in the prison camp, too sore to sleep          he tries to name the shadows that bend
multiply, join and break into new shapes          from the shadows, story-scraps come to him
bits of prayer, words he repeats          to his children, words they take in like food
he sees a matted rump-patch          muddy hooves, a broken antler
Awi Usdi, standing over him          the spirit-deer who cripples
hunters who do not seek pardon          the punisher who withers legs, freezes knees
Awi Usdi, driven from his land          like the people, stockaded, starved
he glimpses the beaten country          they will cross, toll roads, stubble-fields
rivers of leeches, rivers of ice          sky of punched tin, scattering of nail-holes
that the feathery star-people          pour light through

William Woolfitt is the author of two books of poetry, Beauty Strip (Texas Review Press, 2014) and Charles of the Desert (Paraclete Press, forthcoming). He has received a Howard Nemerov Scholarship from the Sewanee Writers’ Conference. His poems and stories have appeared in Shenandoah, Michigan Quarterly Review, The Threepenny Review, Appalachian Heritage, Tin House online, Notre Dame Review, New Ohio Review, The Cincinnati Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Ninth Letter, and elsewhere.