Scajaquada (Final)

As I mentioned in my previous post, I felt good about where this was going, but I realized I wasn’t really sure what it was about. I told one of my kids, I finally figured it out, and she asked how I could be writing something for 4 years and not know what it’s about. I told her, I write like that all the time if I see/feel/think something worth capturing I write it down. If there’s something there, I usually end up going back to it, often again and again, without having any idea what I’m really looking at. This went through 40+ drafts, and last week it dawned on me. I’m not going to lay it out, because that’s the poem’s job, but after that I was better able to focus on some of the details. For those who read the earlier versions, it still retains a lot, but this time with an actual direction. And I’m officially going to call this done.



deyohgwa’, deyohgwa’, deyohgwa’
topping expansion joints
rubber over steel – freeway’s heartbeat

looking out the window – Scajaquada
a word I heard since I could ride in back
more than a Buffalo word that sets us apart – deyohgwa’
more than an expressway that segregates and divides – deyohgwa’
more than a stream that drains and dumps – deyohgwa’
more than a street that doubles as a headstone – deyohgwa’

nearing the bank the smell of sewage and industrial waste is thick
after four miles underground under a broken boom
dangling across the 20 foot culvert
entering the cemetery — somehow
it still flows like water
still flowing over 400 million year old dolomite
still carving Serenity Falls — undisturbed only here
not channeled
not tunneled
not until middle age did I visit Forest Lawn

sitting creek side the call of water and wildlife drown out the city
below in Moffett’s Grove, the last parcel to receive the dead
two young sunbathers in appropriately black bikinis
recline safely away from the leer of living men
with only male finches and cicadas within earshot
wrapping ‘round the girls, the creek quietly descends

Only surfaced for a mile, life still manages
two foot carp, watgá’steowe:s
covers in mud sounds so much better than bottom feeder
sparrows, black birds and so many geese
then again diverted under the old Gala Waters
because it’s too polluted for park goers

I pick up the trail beyond the park
past the remaining glory of the Expo
and the decades of reclamation attempts
until I’m under concrete mangroves
and I’m carried back by the call of migrating cars overhead

past piers, girders and deck – deyohgwa’
past the smelting flame of the iron works – deyohgwa’
past the whir, grind, dust of sawmills – deyohgwa’
past the putrid mountain of refuse – deyohgwa’
past those foraging for pickings

we always seem to find the resources to create MORE
past the shipyards and the mighty masts rising like trees – deyohgwa’

I watch the forest settle back into the earth
swaying with the wind, grasses buffer the creek’s edge
it seems calm as it forgets its future
at the mouth in the distance
smoke rises from longhouses
girls schucking and shelling corn
old women weaving baskets in the shade
tanned skins drying by air
Philip Conjockety lives here
creekside with his family

entertaining settlers
pioneers believe him
the oldest living man
retelling tales of nations and explorers
stories of his father, the last of the Kah Kwa
a chief among the Seneca — felled by fire water

the maiden of the mist who warned her people
of the poisonous glacial serpent that drove them from their ancestral lands
that created the Horseshoe Falls and forced the gods to the sky
now they would abandoned their land
abandoning cornfields to brownfields
M2 – General Industrial District
benzene, toluene, xylene, lead, cyanide, and PCB’s
as history leaches back into the creek bed
and settles in the flesh of wildlife

I turn back at the sign that warns
“be safe walk with a friend”
a small bronze plaque reads
Commodore Perry named the creek after the noble elder
by his Seneca name ska-dyoh-gwa-deh
“beyond the multitude”

why am I surprised?
a name, a word can make so much unseen
a people, a waterway, a language, a history — disappeared

above the mangrove piers, rubber and steel echo
timed right it’s a quick route out of the city
fast enough to ignore the creek that languishes below – deyohgwa’
fast enough to forget the appropriation of Seneca land – deyohgwa’
fast enough to excuse the legacy of industrialization – deyohgwa’
fast enough to hide the homeless – deyohgwa’
fast enough to beat the rush


Scajaquada (skuh-JA-qua-duh)
deyohgwa’ (day-yoh-gwah!)
watgá’steowe:s (waw-tgawh!-stay-oh-ways)

© 2017-2021 Brian Brown-Cashdollar

2 thoughts on “Scajaquada (Final)

    1. I like the parallel between my implication that Conjockety left due to contamination and the earlier migration that is was a part of their lore. My favorite stanza is Moffet’s grove, I just love the rhythm. I think it’s done though, no real niggling issues. I may even submit it for publication. Haven’t done anything like that in decades. Thanks again for the read.

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