First the sea came true
and then the land because the bones
of their followers
found hard earth,
foothold and roothold,
pine-pitch stains on their clothes.
Clouds memorized them
and moved on,
cool shadows pulled by a pagan wind.
Because every false doctrine
stingeth like a viper,
they built a gun-port and fort,
a row of lathed pews,
and when phlegm
rattled in their preacher’s chest,
they waited for another messenger,
someone to write their names
with a seagull’s wing.
Why did they own this silence?
What led them to this far place
where all the wrong animals lived?
Beneath the snow there were brambles
and beneath the brambles clay,
the hardest layer
they named for the English king.
Bareboned winters. Drenched hair.
Coins in the mouth of a fish.
All they wanted was a flawless green,
a sky that smelled like rain,
something more sacred
than a rabbit pelt nailed to a tree.
Colony is reprinted from Blue Colonial (The American Poetry Review/Copper Canyon Press, 2006).