Last night, all the porter froze
and several bottles broke.
The men now stack them exposed,
thawing the bitter beer that folk
favor as brewed from charred malt.
Quite good with apples and salt.
Visitors arrive with a warming sky:
3 Frenchmen from Portage des Sioux
with potatoes, fowl, meal and brandy
and women who sell breads, and sew.
The scene widens, the trading slows.
Exchanges become people we know.
The Captain delivers new canisters
of powder, then walks to the hill
with sextant, giving flints to hunters,
and swings the sun’s image until
reflected it sits on the mirror’s line,
the horizon more precisely defined.
He notes our position. He calculates
in time, and draws from tables in a book
the instrument’s angle, which takes
in plenty of columns when we look,
yet do not stay when he commences.
We go outside to replenish our senses.
The sun always shows us where we are.
It rises without the need for a bobble
of fine brass knobs that measure so far
the steed only Captain Clark can hobble.
Later, from Cahokia, the express returns.
In a letter from Captain Lewis we learn
he will arrive tomorrow. There being
more letters from Kentucky, and 8 cork
bottles of wine, and files for sharpening,
the Sergeant directs us back to work.
Captain Clark has received a soft, tough
durant, a felted cloth to wrap his cough.
Historical adaptation from “Wintering at Camp Dubois,” Vol. 2, pp. 166-167, The Journals of the Lewis & Clark Expedition, edited by Gary E. Moulton, Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1986. Poem first published in Weber–The Contemporary West, Spring 2020.
Mark B. Hamilton considers himself an environmental neostructuralist, working in forms to transform content, adapting from both the Eastern and Western traditions. A new eco-poetry volume, OYO, The Beautiful River: an environmental narrative in two parts, has been released by Shanti Arts, 2020. Recent poems have appeared in Weber—The Contemporary West, North Dakota Quarterly, Chrysanthemum, The Cider Press Review, and Naugatuck River Review, as well as abroad in Oxford Poetry, and Stand Magazine, UK. Please see: www.MarkBHamilton.WordPress.com