Thomas Bates The 2River View, 6.2 (Winter 2002)

Hymn for Heritage Days

This afternoon sings us with the indelible
mysteries of the mother tongue—tortillas, seared chiles—
and with the sacred syllables of local myths:
two ghosts haunt Poudre Canyon; water sprite
in Horsetooth, spirit of a drowned college girl;
Cheyenne spring water cures syphilis.

And here, just minutes west of Severance,
beyond the slaughter house and the low yellow barn
of the talking horse, the song extends itself
to ruder melodies of Ute drums and bad bluegrass,
the bold aroma of roasted corn.

A Mestizo boy pitches one, two balls and lands
his father square in the dunk tank, well worth
his mother’s five dollars to satisfy an Oedipal urge,
splashes water so high it drizzles on the chile cart
where a whistling griddle tends the family business.

You know, somewhere on this great
Southwestern slab, from the summit of Long’s Peak
to the bottom of the reservoir, the song
sinks into us like a sunburn or a lover, calling us
from the shades of superstition to a day
when we may forgive our fathers and step
from out these painted canopies into the sun.

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2River All is well.