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His Ancestor

Michael Gushue

In Conrad’s tribe they lean palm fronds
against sticks lashed together.
The hot sky overturns
on Conrad’s head
like a bathtub of spit.

Frogs are plentiful, better than fish-eating
spiders. No hair to be scraped off.
Conrad misses the time they caught
an agouti. Those were good times.

When strangers enter the clearing,
it’s Conrad’s job to chase them away
with stones and howls and dried dung.
It’s a custom, like cowering at night.

The spring floods trigger an economic
downturn. Every god in the world
is pissed at Conrad. He didn’t scar
himself as much as he should have.

They bury him in a rib cage
woven out of willow branches.

Michael Gushue

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