A trail is being blazed to the people who preceded  
us, whose troubling nucleotides we so clearly  
contain.  Probably, nothing could have changed  
my ancestor McKay's blue eyes or prevented him,  
that dark night in the woods, from ravishing  
the Senedo girl who became our forebear here.  

What made him live to be 90 and his brother  
only 18 was luck.  Other families were  
more adaptable, tough.  Some of their men,  
like Meriwether Lewis, survived by  
learning to eat dog meat and then  
to "prefer it vastly to lean venison or elk."  

Lewis's map was huge.  Open it out  
on the library table, and you can see the point  
at which English place names give way to  
Indian: Snake River, Bitterroot Mountains,  
Clearwater, names that seem part of the earth,  
integral as veins carrying sustenance through.  

Today's trailblazers, Venter and Collins, map us.  
Ancient questions arise, but in a language  
scientists do not understand.  Their calipers can't  
reach the lost knowledge running in us like a river.  
It turns, spurls, and spits uncharted currents--  
so close, so fierce--just under the bone. 

Copyright 2000, Patricia Gray 

A Washington, D.C. native, Patricia Gray lives and works on Capitol Hill.  Her limited edition chapbook, Rich With Desire, sold out within weeks of its publication in early 1998.  She is the recipient of artist's fellowship grants from the District of Columbia Commission on the Arts and Humanities for 2000, 1998, and 1995.  Her poems have appeared in Poetry International, Poetry East, The MacGuffin, Shenandoah, Cider Press Review and in other magazines and anthologies.