Handshake Histories

Jeff Hoffman
          Summer, 1983


They're locked together outside a gift shop outside
the Badlands: a statue Indian shaking hands
with a statue cowboy. The Indian's head feathers

hang down, subdued; the cowboy's hat tilts up at the front—
invitation, forgiveness. His six-shooter, holstered, juts out
from the wood, and I trace it, guiding two fingers

along a well-worn stream that ends at the Indian's leather
vest tassels: When I touch them they should be soft
but are not. My family floats somewhere apart from me;

I do not think of my family. The Indian
creeps into the mist of a forest, lifts his hatchet
toward a rustle in the distance. The cowboy kicks

the ribs of his horse, wrecks onward through a blizzard
of dust. And far away the speck of Rushmore's faces
scoured—by sun, by wind—one layer more lean.

From Journal of American Foreign Policy, published by New Issues Press. Copyright © 2011 by Jeff Hoffman. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

From Journal of American Foreign Policy, published by New Issues Press. Copyright © 2011 by Jeff Hoffman. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

Jeff Hoffman