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Pima Road Notebook #3 by Keith Ekiss

04/10/2010

Picnic, Scottsdale

By Keith Ekiss

In this spot where sandstone buttes

erode into caves, city founders

laid their picnic. Men and women

overdressed, bowties and bustles,

jars of marmalade, tablecloths

cover the barrenness foretold in scripture,

desert where St. Jerome fasted

from all temptation and tested

his love of God. These were the years

when the Pima began to starve.

The river dammed and drained.

In times of famine, they ate seeds

of roasted quail brush, called edam,

catclaw, pickleweed, saltbush.

Settlers observed the children never begged,

no matter how destitute. Rattlesnakes

were never eaten, even in times

of greatest hunger. Plates of beef,

pickled cabbage, days without work

so rare they photographed the bounty

of fruits that ripened into belief:

God meant what they planted to grow.

Home before nightfall, a woman pities

the Pima girl she hires to sweep the house,

the mistress insisting with Christian effort

you could remove every speck of that dust.

*

New Issues has recently published Keith Ekiss’ book of poems Pima Road Notebook.

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