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Indian Boarding School: The Runaways by Louise Erdrich

Indian Boarding School: The Runaways

by Louise Erdrich

Home’s the place we head for in our sleep.

Boxcars stumbling north in dreams

don’t wait for us. We catch them on the run.

The rails, old lacerations that we love,

shoot parallel across the face and break

just under Turtle Mountains. Riding scars

you can’t get lost. Home is the place they cross.

The lame guard strikes a match and makes the dark

less tolerant. We watch through cracks in boards

as the land starts rolling, rolling till it hurts

to be here, cold in regulation clothes.

We know the sheriff’s waiting at midrun

to take us back. His car is dumb and warm.

The highway doesn’t rock, it only hums

like a wing of long insults. The worn-down welts

of ancient punishments lead back and forth.

All runaways wear dresses, long green ones,

the color you would think shame was. We scrub

the sidewalks down because it's shameful work.

Our brushes cut the stone in watered arcs

and in the soak frail outlines shiver clear

a moment, things us kids pressed on the dark

face before it hardened, pale, remembering

delicate old injuries, the spines of names and leaves.

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