[Poem] The Land Has its Memory by Martin Malone

We rise before an early dawn
To walk the ancient fields.
One hundred sweating degrees
By 10 AM.
Spread across the furrowed ground,
A dozen of us crossing this land
That has yielded up its maize
A thousand years,
Cleared now for archaeology.
            Our heads bowed
            in deference and awe
            to whatever sun god
            hates southern Illinois.
            We have come to learn
            the lives now lost
            under the weight of years and soil
            and the new occupants of the old land.
This Ohio River floodplain,
No houses since the flood in ’35,
Tractors still come,
The land too rich to leave.
Good livings to be made
In corn and soybeans.
The farmhouses now in town
Up on the bluffs.
No more Illini, Kaskaskia, Shawnee
Only their names
In the counties and small towns
Kankakee, Wabash, Delaware, Muskingum,
And Keth-tip-pe-cannuck or as we say it now,
Tippecanoe.
            The black plowed ground
            holds pottery and flints,
            small dark circles from rotted posts,
            larger stains from houses,
            dark stains made by living on the earth.
            Ash of fire pits,
            assemblies of rock debris
            where someone sat
            to chip out blades
            for knives and arrows
            and scrapers for the hides of deer.
The land has its memory.
We walk in summer sun
And imagine who once was
Here.

About the Author
Martin Malone was a professor of sociology and anthropology for 31 years. His chapbook, Simple Gifts, was published in 2014. His poems have appeared in Dream International Quarterly, Lighted CornersThe Monocacy Valley Review, ScribbleSeminary Ridge ReviewPennsylvania Bards Against Hunger 2018, Backbone Mountain Review, and are forthcoming in the Pennsylvania Poetry Society 2021 Anthology. He is one of the organizers of Gettysburg’s First Friday Poetry Series. He lives in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

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