(unidentified woman found August 15, 2011, near Glasgow, Kentucky)

When the Scythians came,
their bodies and mounts laced
with sweat, the plain birds would go silent.
These men, fed from horse-blood,
scalps hanging
from their reins.

And I, in my dawn, heard the whippoorwills’ last calls through the sycamore trees. No jangle of horse-flesh or rye of sweat along this highway, just the lonely cries of whip-poor-will and the snap of a plastic bag caught in the underbrush.

When the Visigoths came,
those wandering warriors, set across
battlefields with swords drawn.
There, in written law,
the decalvatio, or separation
of hair, skin, and skull.

And I, delivered to this barren land, know the distance separating earth and sky. A finger’s-length shimmer rising on the road. The humid breath of semis passing the horizon in one tight, hot fist.

When John Lovewell came,
his frost-hued men at his heels,
the ponds were still with ice
and the bodies of men killed.
Their cured skins returned
for bounty.

And I, with the slice of a knife across the ridge of my brow, have forgotten the taste of snow on my tongue, the whisper of ice on my lips and the worn out press of boots against snow. Here, it’s just the slow drop of blood on blood.

When Bloody Bill Anderson’s soldiers came,
their horses pounding through
Missouri and Kansas, the world fell away
in one blue reckoning.
Slapping against the sides
of their desperate creatures, the scalps
of victories.