DC PLACES ISSUE

Barbara Goldberg

 

ONCE, THE BUFFALO

Why should Dumbarton's bridge be dignified
by two buffalo, their massive heads lowered
as if to charge, should one decide to cross over?

Frozen in that pose, their immobility turns them
almost mournful, at odds with this time, this
place where news travels by satellite instead

of smoke. Their ghosts still roam the plains
west of here, huge herds of them, lumbering
with a sober gait, stampeding only if startled

or attacked, raising an ocher cloud of dust.
Once felled by bow or drought or slaughter,
now acid rain dissolves their power. And once

their likeness grazed this land on nickels slipping
through our hands. Buffalo: they whose tongues
were prized for flavor and on our tongue still

circulate as slang for intimidate, bewilder
even awe. These two are fated to be downsized
by this century's excess, mutating over our children's

children's lives, if not before, as headless, hoofless,
spineless shapes, impossible to recognize. What
will become of gravitas, the bridge, the other side?



Barbara Goldberg, senior speechwriter for a large, nonprofit organization, is the recipient of many grants and awards, including two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and four Maryland State Arts Council grants. She is the author of six books of poetry, most recently the prize-winning Marvelous Pursuits (Snake Nation Press, 1995). She is translator, along with Israeli poet Moshe Dor, of The Fire Stays in Red: Poems by Ronny Someck (University of Wisconsin/Dryad Press, 2002), and After the First Rain: Israeli Poems on War and Peace (University of Syracuse/Dryad Press, 1997). Her work appears in such magazines as Gettysburg Review, Paris Review, and Poetry. She lives in Chevy Chase, MD.

 

Published in Volume 7, Number 3, Summer 2006.


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Barbara Goldberg