Janice Northerns Fireflies

The past feels thicker here on the canyon floor,

ancient air filtering down. History hangs

over our heads as ancestral sin slows our steps.


In 1874, Rangers routed

Comanches at the Battle of Palo Duro:

repeating rifles dropped appaloosas and paints —

fourteen hundred — one by one. Each whinnying scream


echoed through this canyon as sun-stenched flesh

stacked ladders to heaven, the bleached bones

later a landmark guiding whites through grassland.


Those bones are long gone, but as darkness falls,

the fireflies come out, their cold glow the same light

that flickered witness above Comanche campsites.


I step soft among fireflies, the ground beneath me

a palimpsest of conquest: buffalo blood

and steaming scalps, gutted treaties, barbed wire,

paved roads to annihilation. The past pulses


underfoot, but the fireflies leave no mark.

Like flint sparking fire, they glimmer for the living

and the dead, glowing ghosts of moon-white bones.


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