The John H. Bennett Jr. Prize
Lee Pelham Cotton
in remembrance of the second Iraq War
The dancers, the dancers turn to the left.
Yonder, the buffalo are coming, they chant.
I see their white shirts. I see their red paint.
They circle to the left, eyes like little suns.
I listen to their feet scumble the debris
from Basrah and Pine Ridge at the nation’s
capital. They stir the dust with their moccasins.
They circle and chant, The buffalo will come.
They turn and turn among the monuments.
Remember the dead, they sing in their circle
before the columned memorials. They shuffle
the dust from Iraq. Their wailing surrounds me:
Ai-Ai. All the blood from Wounded Knee,
the bombs from nineteen-ninety-one.
The dancers chant, The buffalo are coming,
while they turn: a whole new world. The women,
the men dance together, women in hijabs,
men in dishdashas, covered in blood.
Dust clogs my lungs. I ask them,
What will become of us? What have we
become? The dust, the blood!
The circle tightens around me. They sing,
Yonder, a whole new world. They stir
the dust and chant: The buffalo are coming.
Women in hijabs ululate, men in dishdashas
tear their hair. Ever closer to the monuments,
closer to me, they dance: A whole new world.