Shadow figures

As he stumbles forward, a man holds up
a white truce rag:
Colorado, 1914.
Maybe once he worked at the Spring & Moon Mine
in Idaho Springs, then
had gone on:
Telluride, Cripple Creek, Trinidad, and now
As he inches forward, he remembers
starlit lake water
and also sleeping one night
in a barn filled with horsesmells
and hair from the beards
of Swedish farmers.
(truce rag
or no truce rag)
the state militia
creams him good:
Behind him,
other strikers,
taken off guard,
turn and flee
arms flailing
through the woods.
They continue sprinting until
70 years later
taking a breather at a hick town newsstand
they huddle around a magazine photo
of an American official
seated on a stone verandah overseas
as he pursues his hobby —
the exotic songs
of tropical birds.

In the end, the ex-miners,
gripping mini truce flags,
twitch forward on all 4s across dead rhododendrons —

“Lithen to uth! Lithen to uth!”
they lisp and slobber, barely able to talk.

Robert Bohm is a writer on culture and a poet. His most recent book of poems is What the Bird Tattoo Hides (2015, West End Press, New Mexico). He has been a political activist since his tour of duty with the army in 1967-68. Over the years, he has worked on wide range of issues, including antiwar, labor, racism and education. He is currently working on a book about the U.S. left's failure to develop new strategies and tactics for confronting advanced capitalism. Of his six books, one is a nonfiction work on India, his wife's homeland where they have spent much time in the southern state of Karnataka. Read other articles by Robert.