I'm leaning in

Candace Williams

over a plate of Dinosaur
BBQ in a cold conference room
off Madison Square Park
& one of twenty
white twenty-somethings running
our startup has taken
the floor to talk about lean product
development aka making money
without spending money aka scamming
customers & he’s wearing a $300 button
down & $1000 jeans (Balmain) & $1500 shoes designed
to look like they came from his granddaddy's closet
when really I heard him yelling
at his assistant about the
obvious seams
of his slacks & saw his assistant
tear up as she ordered
his new clothes over the phone
last week but now I’m smirking
at his jokes because he’ll stop
giving me a paycheck if I don’t smile
enough & now he’s talking about re-purposing
failed products & tells us to
use every part of the buffalo
& I imagine a pack of bison lumbering
down 5th avenue showing
ID to the front desk riding
the elevator to 10 & interrupting my boss’ Power
Point with a presentation titled

& the next slide has a bar chart
showing 100 million bison roaming
the plains before 1800 & a much shorter bar
for the thousand left by 1900 & a click starts a short
YouTube clip about the sophisticated cultures
of indigenous nations on the plains
who found a purpose

for every part of the bison: the stomach liner
became water & cooking vessels
fat became soap & cosmetics
tendons were arrow shields
babies teethed on foot bones
blood was both paint
& pudding & skulls were altars
& the meat sustained natives resisting the savage
grasp of the U.S. Army but before
the bison could explain what the U.S. government did next
they’d be overcome by the weight of it all & stare at the white faces of the great
great grandchildren of men who made gold their altar
every buffalo dead is an Indian
& gorged on the myriad of carcasses 



The italicized portions of the last two lines of this poem are attributed to Lieutenant Colonel Richard Dodge and an unknown military leader who incited acts of genocide