At Caddo

Mary Carroll-Hackett

we knelt, we women, in living prayer to grind acorns, percussion of bone, horn and stone, flour loosening there beneath our touch, smooth as the mush I chewed, then softened with the pad of my tongue, from marsh elder, to finger into the half moon mouth of the black-eyed child we made. For your house by the red river, I boiled squash and pumpkin, fried fat and deer liver, gathered goosefoot and chinquapins, their woody shells stars you cracked with square strong teeth, the nutmeat spilling sweet from your mouth to mine. In the village, the connas kept time, those priests who played pallilos, who whispered first into the ear of the deer you brought, who taught of ships and open skies, the twin gaze of the feathered snake, the shake, rasp and rattle of the ancestor songs, how the desert stars had always been our eyes, how the desert fires were our fires too. We knew—all along—we women, all time given when we still floated in our mothers' blood, our unformed tongues already brave, speaking to the xinesi of the red sand we would make to honor his grave. My mother, her fingers stained and sticky with first fruit, traced my route across the swollen drum of her own belly, while I still swam within, marking the map of all women, the telling like persimmon bite, sweetening only as I grew, then came, finally, in ripeness, to you. You gave me purslane, pulled young and wild, and I tore the woody stem open for its sweet bit of milk, keeping safe the tiny seeds, dark and silky as my skin, in a hide bag, guarding them, always for the planting, for the time we would begin again.

Mary Carroll-Hackett took the MFA in Literature and Writing from Bennington College in June 2003. Her fiction and poetry have appeared in more than a hundred journals including Carolina Quarterly, Clackamas Literary Review, Pedestal Magazine, The Potomac, Reed and The Prose-Poem Project. Her chapbook, The Real Politics of Lipstick, was recently named winner of the 2010 annual poetry competition by Slipstream. She currently directs Creative Writing at Longwood University in Farmville, VA where she founded and edits The Dos Passos Review, Briery Creek Press, and The Liam Rector First Book Prize for Poetry.