Occupied Territory

-- for Katie, by Trudy Wischermann

I can't say I know
how the Yokuts felt -
I still have a roof
over my head, some paltry ability
to use my land, my town lot
the way I want, and that
disqualifies me


watching them move in
to the freshly erased landscape
bulldozed clean of groves and vineyards,
streams and ditches buried, all evidence
of life before their occupation
neatly wiped clean for comfort's sake, nothing left
to remind them This is not
where they lived before, no hint
It's different here, you have
to make room in your life for
soil, the oaks
need you to pay attention
and all the books in the world
won't help, won't bring them back
once they're gone . . .

We watch them move in
to the next grassy hillside,
the next dying orchard
with their heavy equipment
glad to have work as our
hearts sink, our faces turn
to each other in shock quietly
saying It's going. We're losing
everything we love and we'd better
get our cameras out and go take pictures
of any tiny speck that has tickled our eye
or soothed our souls
in this place we have finally
come to know
from years of living
in it

though what good it will do
to have reminders
of their death
we don't know

and so

I can say I don't know
how the Yokuts felt
as I drain the bottle,
turn my back on the neighbors, the news,
turn inward, close my eyes and mouth
to shut out tears, shut off pained shrieks
and battle cries

but my soul knows
I've got a glimmer

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