Paul Engle Poems >>
Heritage

I have inherited
My mother's nature,
Sensitive to light,
By any strong wind led,
Loving each living creature,
And from my father feature
In eye alert of sight,
In a horse trader's head,
Hands that are never still,
Hair brown as a walnut hull,
And finally a will
Running through bone and marrow
Tough as grandfather's skull
Which seventy years ago
Broke a hickory arrow
From a Dakota bow.

I have the hands of a man,
The harried hawk eyes to see.
I am that ghost which ran
From the sun, and out of flame
Made a length of energy,
Giving it face and name,
The lonely touch of woman,
The terrible power to be,
Calling it proud and human.

The generations of men
Thrust their shoulder behind
The wheel of my living when
Neither wheel nor I can find
The plain road to the future,
The rut through buffalo grass.
They bind the ragged suture
In bone around the brain,
They stare from my eyes and pass
With the little pulse of heart
Through artery and vein.
No man lives all apart.
He cannot ever hide,
For they are at his foot
And wander by his side,
They are that bold, dead stone
That bends the living root.