Thomas Reeve

Diving south from White River
I tried to outsmart the coming storm.
Lightning cracks across
the back of the Black Hills.
Once sacred, now white.
Settled by
purveyors of trinkets and trash.
Three men sit outside a liquor store
at the edge of town
sipping Forties.
Forgotten warriors.
Booze is illegal on the Rez
but the border towns oblige.
Open early, close late.
Low clouds blow fast.
Driving through seams of ancient sandstone
On this barren blacktop ribbon.
Sandhills. Badllands.
Doublewides sit square
and squat against the relentless wind.
Two pit bulls tied to a tree.
A small trike turned over in in a driveway.
Rusted cars in a yard.
A small bird hits the windshield.
One claw wraps the radio antenna
and the small body is impaled,
wings spread,
stuck with me
flying across this empty place.
Hills rise and fall like waves.
A herd of buffalo crests the horizon
running with their tongues cut out.
A memory
of genocide by starvation.
A flock of crows fly north
each with a bloomed rose in its beak.
They drop them as they fly.
Petals fall like dead dreams.
They call this place Rosebud.


The last slow switchback
curling back toward home.
A quick bounce of slanted lights.
The fawn lying in her driveway.

                       Tires grab gravel.
                                    Quick stop.
                                    Dust drifts in the beams
                                    like smoke.
It looks dead.
Rusty red from the cab.
Venus burns a hole
in a shrouded sky.
                                    Door creaks and slams.
                                    A hand on fur.
                                    Still warm.
                                    Mountain lion.
More tan than red
when kneeling close.
Round nubs on the skull.
Button buck.
Would have been a beautiful boy.

Engine sounds.
Owl songs.
Hair crawls.
                                    Is the cat still there?
She grabs two legs.
Drags him to the trees.
Tiny hooves shine
black like wet stones.
The doe,
                                    a still, staring eye reflecting
green in the headlights.
                                    Just behind the Ponderosa pine.


Buffalo Creek

SEE THE WILD BUFFALO! I’ll follow the signs. Roll into a parched gravel lot. Two paint-peeled pumps. Three rib-thin buffalo in a pen. Hand-scrawled sign says pay before you pump. Walk towards a screen door dust devils swirling at my side. It’s okay! An old man shouts, No prepay! The pump grinds on and I go inside. He sits behind a sheet metal desk, black binoculars around his neck. I check out all the cars and decide he says. You’re good. Smiles. Tobacco yellow teeth. A Ford F-150, two dogs, and a white man must be keys to the kingdom here. We watch a silver Audi pull in. Caramel skin and a sonorous river of black hair spill from the door. Heat shimmers in blurred waves around her. Hands on hips, ass wrapped tight in white leggings. She reads the sign and looks carefully towards the door. She gotta pay first he says.

Rest Stop

In S.D. the rest stops are all marked with skeleton sticks of imagined tepees. We burned all the real ones. I have been a migratory bird for fifty years. Back and forth to Minnesota where my father, 90 now, still can’t say I love you. Never did push his grandkid on a swing. I stopped here 25 years ago when my son was five. Rolling with the Lion King. He stood in front of the car, where a Monarch butterfly was pressed dead on the grill, its orange wings still perfect. It’s the circle of life he said. Hakuna Matata baby. For the rest of your days.


Dropping through the Badlands for decades. A desert bighorn ram stood perched on a ridge. Tan on red sandstone. Setting sun lit striations in the uplifted rocks. Only one bar/restaurant in Scenic. 20 or so motorcycles and some trucks in the lot. We sat down, single dad raising two kids. Better order simple here, burgers, cokes, fries. Yes okay grilled cheese is fine. At the bar, framed by a red Budweiser sign, she sat looking at our out-of-place little clan. Black leather vest and pants. White shirt. Tats and silver earrings. She was the most beautiful, strongest, bravest, saddest, and loneliest woman in the world.

Wounded Knee

A place too poor to even have a proper monument. Just an old yurt with pictures inside. All the chiefs. A mass grave. Ghosts of the hundreds that died. I bought a carved antler tip key ring from an old man. Thick gray braids and a turquoise bolo tie. Climbed the hill where the slaughter began. A dry creek bed snaked below. Old trucks, a tent kitchen, Indian flatbread. Sat in a circle with some strangers and passed a peace pipe around.

Driving West

For children, time is a heavy chain. Just wait just wait just wait until you are older. Now I am older. Farm towns. Withered, dying. No more winking waitresses or bustling harvest sounds. Main street stores have plywood eyes. Only the sound of rats’ feet and pigeon wings inside. Two dark bars. Men in John Deere caps drink early. Gimme Jack and Coke. Gimme Johnny Walker Black, beer back. Survivors. Nothing runs like a Deere. One gas station. I drive west. Still wondering if you love me. Time chases me into a lake full of memories. I’ll swim there till I drown.


The small creek below the barn
runs fast and hard in March
when mother bears rise blinking from their dark dens
and winter-born cubs squint in a new, wondrous world
of green leaves and aspen trees.
Walking to the barn,
I listen to water roll across rocks
and hear hungry horses stir in their stalls.
Inside, I drink the sweet smell of hair and hay,
then stop
in the sudden stillness
of sensed memories.
Springtime is no blessing for a horse.
They stand still and trembling in their stalls,
ears laid back like rabbits in short grass.
Nostrils flare with awakened worries
of bears walking in the moonlight.

4 thoughts on “Thomas Reeve”

  1. I found Thomas Reeve’s poems absolutely captivating. Despite the varied styles and structures of his pieces, there is a consistent voice that draws the reader into the prose, the scene, and the world that many others pass by without notice. He has a true talent for creating vivid imagery. I would love to read more of his work!

  2. Loved this work. It speaks to me. I have been in many of the places mentioned, including driving through the Rosebud reservation. It brought back sad memories of a sad place.

  3. Tom Reeve’s work ranges across a vast, rugged territory that’s filled with both scenic beauty and haunting spirits that call from our past and point to our future.

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