From the Ildefonso Pueblo, the men ride
in pickups for good wages, meager lunches,
hands rubbed raw, full work days. They know
stories of the dead rising to life
but still they go. Out in blustery heat,
where the archaeologist points,
Ildefonso men spade and shovel the site
where skeletons stir:
Don’t take me out. Don’t take me out.
The excavation reveals rotted walls, fire pits,
a field of graves. When the first man finds
a skeleton, he pulls away from its grip.
Pales and collapses dead. With the stunned
crew carrying him home, they shudder
at the skeleton, who clawed into the digger’s feet.
From holes and deepening trenches
come spewing dust, shovel scrapes,
men hauling boxes of dirt. From Ildefonso men,
who flee to higher ground, come terrified voices,
recoiling from newfound skeletons. Clouds darken
the sun. Some men vomit when
skeletons plead, Don’t take me from this ground.
At the mesa’s excavation site, the skeletons
assault every Ildefonso man. With guilt and fear
worming inside, they quit digging.
The archaeologist takes what he can, crates up
the deads’ secrets, and shipping them away.
The Ildefonso men return for good, hauling
to their dwindling village a plague
from Puyé skeletons unearthed and stirred to life.
Juan J. Morales is the author of the poetry collection, Friday and the Year That Followed, and has published in many journals. He received his MFA from the University of New Mexico, he is a CantoMundo Fellow, and he directs the Creative Writing at Colorado State