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Jefferson Community College Website

"Sagamore" - Amy L. Durant


Passed down in my family
there is a story that we are
the black sheep of our line:
our last name, a historic one,
somehow tarnished.

We lost the railroad money, the
camps tucked neatly white and green
in the Adirondacks, the lakeside
views, fast cars and publishing rights.
We were sent underground to work
in the mines, to roughen our hands
to callus with manual labor.

No one knows if this story is true.
It is one told around campfires
by people who might have known
but are gone.  Hearts run hot and fast
in our family.  We drop dead without
a whisper.  We are found beside
cars, in beds, crumpled on bathmats.
We do not like to be a bother.

There is a museum in the mountains
where a room is papered with photos
of men who carry my name.  I have
looked deep into their eyes for
recognition.  I have pored over them
for our widow’s peak, our cleft chins,
telltale signs of our insomnia and
inability to stop loving when warnings
all start flashing implacable red.

I smell pine in my sleep, hear
the trains in the distance, the men
laughing as they paddle on lakes
dark and smelling of promise.

I move amongst the dead like I am the ghost,
tugging on tailcoats for attention.
I come later, I whisper.  Look ahead
for me.  Don’t forget I am one of you.
I will swallow you down inside.
I will not let you be forgotten
if you look, just once, in my direction.

I want nothing more than my name
and the knowledge of my line
stretching back, and back, and back
told as stories over open flame.