Gahneesah Rising

The town name of Kennesaw, Georgia, derives from the Cherokee Indian word Gahneesah, which means a place of the dead.

by David King

The boys in the back have lost their heads,
Rolled them out of palms,
Then jerked back up with eyes wide dazed.
And in the middle of the lecture,
I think of Gahneesah, the Cherokee
Burial ground, where other boys, 65,000,
More deeply stained the red clay
Rust that ringed the mountain.

Now at Kennesaw, sleepers and spirits awake—
Whether to trucks and cranes,
Shuffled notes, stern gazes, cleared throats—
Beyond the fuel pumps and burger chains,
In the same old woods that sheltered
Soldiers and the slaves, hid Indians and hippies,
Frey’s pasture shifts its shape again.

And it might seem like this always, now,
Classes coming and going, traffic stalling,
The years no different save for hairstyles
Or the exchange of ties and tweeds for jeans.

The ghosts know better, stirring in the ground;
Never really resting,
Like the half-eye opening in the back of class,
Or the owl-eye blinking in the woods,
That want to know in spite of sleep,
These spirits shook
Off the dust of their own bones,
Saw the Trail of Tears turn interstate,
Heard cannon boom become construction blast.

Now in Gahneesah, the dead place, they
Urge toward sunlight, toward the mind’s light,
Become again forever young.
So we students too come back again,
Each year old myths and truths revive,
While at the window, in the boughs,
The owl as well now wakes to rise. 

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