Erratics

by Anne Myles (Greensboro, NC)

—Spirit Mound Historic Prairie, October 27, 2018

In 1804, Lewis and Clark trudged sweltering

up Paha Wakan, supposed by all to be a place of Deavels—

but found just birds and insects, herds of buffalo below.

As I approach it now—singular upheaval

on an island of east Dakota prairie—

I check my phone by habit, read the news:

eleven Jews just massacred in Pittsburgh. 

On the trail to the summit I see a boulder

of tombstone-gray granite.

A sign explains it as a glacial erratic:

a rock unlike those native to the region,

carried by the force of moving ice,

scoured and thrust for hundreds of miles perhaps.

Erratic from errare, to wander.

It reminds me of the long migrations of my people—

what drove us to places we could not imagine,

to places we believed we knew.

And I ponder this life in which I left New York 

to end up a dweller in the strange Midwest,

imagining the word my grandfather called my mother,

Yevreika—Jew-girl—rolling across the generations.

My country lies spread before me.

From the top we beheld a most butifull landscape—

which I gaze on to the horizon, wondering

how much blood has watered the fields I see

to feed the prairie grasses that rustle now

as a pheasant startles up within them

and rockets sideways into sun and wind.

Anne Myles’s work has appeared in On the Seawall, North American Review, Split Rock Review, Whale Road Review, Lavender Review, and other journals. A recent transplant from Iowa to Greensboro, NC, she is Professor Emeritus of English at the University of Northern Iowa, and received her MFA from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. She has been nominated for a Pushcart and was co-winner of the 2022 ellipsis… Award, judged by Carolyn Forché.

1 Comment

Filed under American Jewry, Family history, history, Jewish, Jewish identity, Jewish writing, Judaism, poetry

One response to “Erratics

  1. Jessica Ursell

    This is so beautifully written. I love how you note the sign, “a glacial erratic” and then “Erratic from errare, to wander. It reminds me of the long migrations of my people—what drove us to places we could not imagine, to places we believed we knew.” I keep thinking about the concept of being driven to places we could not imagine and the truth of that wandering for so many of our people who have been thrust to far-flung areas of the world. China, Bahrain, and Brazil come immediately to mind. My own mother was born in Kyrgyzstan at the foothills of the Himalayas. When you write, “how much blood has watered the fields” I think about how the blood of our people has watered so many lands across the globe. It’s very painful to contemplate for many reasons and in some of these places now flowers are growing. Thank you for sharing such an evocative and thought-provoking piece.

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