Tag Archives: Strange One

J. T. Evans

I.
 
May.  The Moon When Ponies Shed Their Shaggy Hair. 
Horsemen against a red western sky ride through White River Valley. 
Warriors, women and children trail in the twilight dust, ghostlike,
pushing forward, reaching back to the bleeding horizon. 
Buffalo gone.  Freedom gone.  The sacred circle broken.  Huddled
by the fort at the foot of ancient cliffs, places of dreaming,
they chant the peace song.  Dog soldiers and Indian scouts
surround the horsemen:  Little Hawk, Big Road, He Dog, and their chief,
the man they call Strange One. 
 
In silence he roams among them, noticing none but the children. 
Solitary creature, like a hawk on the wing.  Small and slim, a single feather
at the back of his head.  Braids of brown fur-wrapped hair hanging long
over plain buckskin, a Winchester dangling at his knee.  His power,
a boyhood vision of the world behind this one.  Spirit home of all things living, 
where he and his horse dance queer like shadows floating,
giving him the name Tashunka-Uitco, Crazy Horse. 
 
Facing the Blue Coats, he stares down the darkness.  Ferocious eyes,
face of blazing rage.  The soldiers fear him above all others, fear his strong medicine,
his war club, his scalping knife.  They have heard the stories.  Or lived to tell their own. 
How he chewed dried eagle heart and wild aster flowers for power and protection
from the guns and bayonets, the bullets like hail around him.  How on the plains
and in the hills, charging into battle on a yellow pinto, eager and tireless
for the killing, he whipped them on the Powder, along the Yellowstone,
beside the Rosebud, at the Little Big Horn.
 
And after all that, this. The final insult.  Bringing the Lakotas to the Soldier Town,
trading skin tepees for canvas tents, bounty for hunger.  Surrendering weapons
and horses and vigor to the whites who swell like flood waters over the land,
following the smell of gold. Wishing for the evening wind waving
through tall grass, for the blazing fires of village centers where the people
dance and sing Hoka hey!  Hoka hey!  until night gives birth to morning sun
rising over the breaks of distant bluffs.  Longing for the old days, the Indian ways.
 
 
II.
 
Spotted eagle circling above me. 
Plunging at my feet.
Under its wing, iron knife stuck deep. 
Blood filling my moccasins. 
Drum beating in my head like horse hooves
on hollow ground.  Great Spirit, take me
to distant dark country where my anger can roam free,
far from white man’s chains and crooked tongues. 
Our ways and theirs, different
as sun from moon.  Hey-a-a-hey!  Have courage my people.
Only the earth endures. 
Behold!  In the clouds, a thunder being smoking healing herbs
in the holy pipe.  A rider with lightning limbs
on a white-faced bay facing east.  Behold!
All tribes, one nation.  Walking the black road home. 
Hou!  This day my heart is good.
It is a beautiful time to die.
 
 
III.
 
Messenger comes
with slow feet of bad news:
Betrayal and lies.
Promises broken.
Red steel, long knife
flashing in late sun.
Brave warrior
drops to the dust
by the soldiers’ iron house,
dark pools of blood
mirror sacred sky.
 
Ahh-h!  Curly, my son.
Strong, good and wise man!
A father’s heart heavy with loss.
A mother’s tears like rain
spilling over smooth stones.
The people’s vision blinded,
their voice silenced,
stars turning toward midnight.
No killing, no taking of scalps
can bring you back
or make the darkness fade.
But your spirit will rise,
and your bones will sleep
under grass facing blue sky
along a creek beneath cottonwoods
crowded by plum and chokeberry thickets;
where as a boy
you liked to run
and hunt and dream,
the earth, rain and four winds
your only companions.
This holy place
your father and mother alone
will know, and we will die
holding the secret in our breasts
with eternal love for you,
our son, our Strange One.

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J. T. Evans is a writer living in Richmond, Va.

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