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Poetry: History

 

We were young when the Indians took us,
my brother almost two, and me, just five.
I still remember my mother, her hair
tickling cautiously from under a carefully tied
bonnet, the harsh scrub of Saturday baths,
so I might be lead, Sunday, smelling of soap,
into the gingham church.
                        Her eyes were blue.
My father I see
primarily as boots and hands, and
even those appear distant and blurred, as
a line of cavalry, approaching through
the summer dust of ponies.

In the appointed summer, we became braves.
My brother was called Buffalo Man, but I
was named Howling Coyote, because my spirit
was restless as an unbroken stallion.
In the fall, we went to war.

The wind says Buffalo Man has many scalps.
The post gate squaw says he has vowed
to hang mine from his tipi. I cannot tell her
the sorrow of my heart. The boots of officers
kick me, the hands of officers express contempt
for deserters. The army's soap is strong,
but it cannot wash the hunt from my skin.
The children peer at me from behind
gingham curtains. They will not let me in.
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