On a hill and robed in silhouette, they happened. Black braids unwinding in punches and trips, arms twigged brown over piping veins. These men, Indians, tanned in sun and dust, with feet like fragments or the slow subtle steps of glaciers. They arrived, these Indians, these men, hanging a tight fist of exhaustion under their eyes. Cresting one of the three hills that valley this place, the movement of sparse trees sprinkling last shadows into the pecking dusty ground.
Boy girl girl are gone. Sent off to fondle the grass beyond the reaches. This mother, their mother, groping for breath in a suffocation of hayseed and splinters, sent them to. So she stands, lone and bare, apron over chest, watching the sliding of moccasins in her hills, those hills of dirt and gray yellow. Men, Indians, two and no horses, dirty figures in the muzzle of early evening. Boy girl girl will be back soon, will spring over the knuckles of one or another of these hills, the hills that pin their house to the land. But by then, this mother, their mother, will be thick with Indians, two men, with their heads wrapping around the porch railing.
Him, the father, the man with the rifle sight and the drinking backwards neck, he is already a disappearance. The land consumed him quickly, as it does the muscles and bones of some people. He became a casualty, a blaring of wind. He had choices, and he chose to ride a horse into clear nothing of morning. He chose the clarity of moving away, chasing the bleat of sun-born air. And as she stands here, facing the eyes of dark men, he stands too in the cacophony of suddenly snow, rowing down from the peaks of Canadian wilderness, chasing caribou as she chases cattle and setting streaks of sun.
They make gestures and signs as they approach. Threading fingers up and down their throats, the skin hanging in redder blotches of browning, their mouths open in untranslatable humming. She watches them with a clean understanding of threats and storms. Existing on this land. Seeing no weapons on their backs and only a sheen of ribs scraping around them in fractured rings. These men, these Indians, still moving forward in unseen motions, making thin the ground between them and her.
She looks to the hills. One and two and three. The culmination a valley, miniscule and hidden, no sightlines to peace or prosperity. This mother, alone on her feet in this blank kind of world where men and Indians run wide, spinning the dust beneath them. The sun is a purple bruise. And boy girl girl are unseen beyond the bruise, the purpling. Boy girl girl will arrive when the light is dipping to nothing. They will not arrive now, not when the sunset remains. And their father, him of the land-eaten bones and muscles, he will never recover himself over the mountains, to this dry whistling land of weeds and farming rocks. She is alone in these weeping hills.
There is a sign to their faces, a way of marks and symbols in their pupils that makes them somehow or another less to be feared, to this mother. She sees in them as she looks past the whites and the browns, locked in their faces as they step ever closer, their fingers clasping and unclasping air. Boy girl girl is what she sees. Not her boy girl girl ascending descending these hills, savior to her predicament, but instead these men, these Indians, she sees the boy girl girl in them. They are alone in dust, winded weeds in fading sunlight, in lost shuffling steps. They are babies seeking, rooting in the arid earth of here.
And their hands change, fingers moving from an up down throat to two fingers and a thumb, holding the invisible and gesturing to their mouths, over and over. She sees them and understands the movements, the winnowing hearts these men, these Indians, children beneath their tanned leather skin and their palms unholding weapons. Her, this mother without her boy girl girl, finds these two men, Indians, her new children, dribbling insides sharp with open mouths. Their hunger grown so acute that they will approach the porch railing and middle aged woman standing there, arms akimbo, watching them walk the hills on numb legs.
They step two or three steps from the columns and the railing, gesturing gone hushed and eyes like epithets of absolute hunger. A stand, the woman watching the men, the men watching the woman. None with threats beyond their bold faces and the chiseled demeanor of their hands, the men's hands weak and the woman's hands strong with disquiet. Above them, these three, smoke curls from the stone chimney, waves in the purple going to gray skies. The seldom swallow framed as a bat in the barely visible horizon, dives and sputters on its wings. Meadowlarks silent. Boy girl girl long off into the hills, one two three.
Inside the house she shuffles her own feet in unsolicited fear and thinks of him, their father, losing himself in the wilds of a snow sheltered rifle. Nestling the stock against his shoulder, back curved and tight, sighted in on a snowshoe, firing. The hare obliterated. The hare turned into shredded fur and mangled parts. And in her head are the echoes of the bullet and its refrain, scuttling through the mountains, bounding from the rock faces and the trickle of running water under frozen water. Him, their father who left, running under her, the still running.
Their hands take the bread, shaking. These men, these Indians. A loaf split in half, the halves of the moon in their hands. And they eat with raging appetite, no longer in protection of their hearts or their muscles, just shells of exterior, these men, these Indians, begging food from the farms of dust and the women who run them. A woman in the skinning light of dusk. She takes in their unlooking eyes and the sometimes down down quickstep of their heads, thanking her in shifting necks and open brows. They eat. Replenish the miles they have walked and stood, the sun on their backs, hefting the world.
Boy girl girl show when the moon is peaking, their mother sitting on the porch, watching the stars ramble through the still branches of their few dark trees. She says nothing of the men, those two, those Indians without horses who are gone. She split them a loaf to spend and another to carry in their hands, something for their tempting further hills, for the suns of tomorrow. And other than her boy of boy girl girl, this is her closest proximity to a man. These men, these Indians. And like her husband disappeared, fragmenting rabbits in the snows of departed mountains, she nurtures the men back into their walking, their moving forward as need has. This woman, their mother, in the small valley of her solitude.