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The Buffalo Coat

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I see him moving, in his legendary fleece,
Between the superhighway and an Algonquin stone axe;
Between the wild tribes, in their lost heat,
And the dark blizzard of my Grandfather’s coat;
Cold with the outdoor cold caught in the curls,
Smelling of the world before the poll tax.

And between the new macadam and the Scalp Act
They got him by the short hair; had him clipped
Who once was wild—and all five senses wild—
Printing the wild with his hoof’s inflated script
Before the times was money in the bank,
Before it was a crime to be so mild.

But history is a fact, and moves on feet
Sharper than his, toward wallows deeper than.
And the myth that covered all his moving parts,
Grandfather’s time had turned into a coat;
And what kept warm then, in the true world’s cold
Is old and cold in a world his death began.

Thomas McGrath, “The Buffalo Coat” from Movie At The End of the World. Copyright � 1972 by Thomas McGrath. Used by permission of Swallow Press/Ohio University Press.
Source: Selected Poems 1938-1988 (1988)

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This poem originally appeared in the September 1964 issue of Poetry magazine

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The Buffalo Coat

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