Passing Rez School the Day before Thanksgiving Day, Unoriginal Sin and a Redskin Pilgrim’s Retrogression

By Ralph Salisbury b. 1924 Ralph Salisbury
Footpath passing a school,

undiscovered by a nun
black at her blackboard’s explanation
of Vanishing Americans’ vanishing, I find myself

flagged, by two not quite red rows,
unfurled into grin, two white, and by one
five-pointed, pale star.

My lips let my teeth pledge allegiance,
again, my fingers orbiting their own warmth,
around this pen,
as straight as Old Glory’s tall pole, but
admittedly, ingloriously smaller, and,

as the star descends, it draws,
from Christian calendars’ precision constellations,
a child—hand cramped
from fisting fact onto dusty black
clutching a wand,
to draw him Everywhere.

Though the teacher scowls
us back to my dead, risen from
The Trail of Tears

as chalk,
this day before Thanksgiving Day; a child
will lead, as I finish taking my walk.

Ralph Salisbury, “Passing Rez School the Day Before Thanksgiving Day, Unoriginal Sin and a Redskin Pilgrim’s Retrogression” from Rainbows of Stone. Copyright © 2000 by Ralph Salisbury. Reprinted by permission of University of Arizona Press.

Source: Rainbows of Stone (University of Arizona Press, 2000)

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Poet Ralph Salisbury b. 1924

POET’S REGION U.S., Northwestern

Subjects Relationships, Family & Ancestors, Social Commentaries, History & Politics, Race & Ethnicity

 Ralph  Salisbury

Biography

Of Cherokee and Irish American heritage, Ralph Salisbury was born in rural Arlington, Iowa. At the age of 17 he joined the U.S. Air Force and served in World War II, and it was during his time in the military that he began reading and writing poetry. He attended the North Iowa Teachers College on the GI Bill and later transferred to the University of Iowa, where he studied under Robert Lowell and earned an MFA in 1951. . . .

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SUBJECT Relationships, Family & Ancestors, Social Commentaries, History & Politics, Race & Ethnicity

POET’S REGION U.S., Northwestern

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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