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Recorded as part of the Poem-a-Day series, October 1, 2015
About this Poem 

“‘Leviathan’ is drawn from a manuscript that examines the human consequences of the mapping and surveying of the American West and the politics of the Indian Removal Act of 1830. This poem references events and language pertaining to the removal of the Shawnee tribe from their traditional homelands to Indian Territory.”
Laura Da’

Leviathan

In Westport the small French cart
of the voyageurs earned the name mule-killer.

Once Shawnee was the lingua franca
up and down the Mississippi,

then mollassi became molasses.
For the bringing of the horse

it is said much can be forgiven: burn
of Missouri whiskey and aching molars,

lunatic fevers of cholera,
even those men

born astride. Rare beast to share
that weight on such fine and slender legs.
 

Copyright © 2015 by Laura Da'. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 1, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2015 by Laura Da'. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 1, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

Laura Da'

Laura Da’

Laura Da’ is the author of Instruments of the True Measure, which is forthcoming from the University of Arizona Press in 2018, and Tributaries (University of Arizona Press, 2015). She lives near Seattle, Washington.

by this poet

poem

Seneca, Missouri—soft wash of casino jangle
seeps through the Pontiac’s cracked window.

The map flutters on the dashboard,
one corner grit-soaked.

Sparse Ozark wash of tawny green.
A herd of buffalo lowing in the side pasture.

Here is the voyage,
conjured homeland to conjured

poem

In Shawnee cosmology,
a shooting star can fall to earth as a mythical panther.

            Tecumseh—
            phonetic approximation of an Algonquian name:
            Shooting Star,
            One Who Waits,
            Crouching Panther.

The first cultural event in

poem

Live long enough
and salt pork, beans,
yearling colts, honey and butter,
            something will turn into a wedge
            to bend your will.

Missionaries call for my sons to send off to school,
each season when the corn is green.
I tuck them into the rows
farthest to