Grandfather

Crow_s_heart,_Mandan

Grover Priest was a holy man

without sackcloth,

robes,

or rosary.

Never thumped anyone

with a Good Book –

or a bad one.

Broke water in Oklahoma.

Indian Territory.

Raised red on the rez’.

Raised “right” by white.

Sheared like a sheep.

Long-knives detest long hair,

except in Custer’s case:

another disgrace.

How is one made

to fear braids?

Sacred eagle feather must go;

forgot to tickle the fancy.

Breechcloths stripped:

too many Pale People blushing.

“Savages are quite vulgar,

shamelessly rude:”

pale prudes embarrass easily.

Leather leggings – feared.

Leather chaps – for cowboy gear.

Queer perspective.

Pistol-packin’ denied.

Rifle-stackin’ applied.

Cartridges confiscated.

Quiver and bow

and arrows must go:

not even a lance

to count coup.

When Winter Hawk comes

scarce is the game.

See the nameless,

faceless –

to all but us –

seek a place

to sing their death song.

Quite a sight

a child’s empty stomach

swelling as if full.

First People on knees

remind pale fathers

about treaties

and Golden Rule.

“Please” isn’t easy for proud.

Aid and comfort come

with pox blankets:

disease.

First People

much to give

now told

“no right to live.”

Truth would say,

“Livin’s an illusion

when white claim right.”

Things can change

when a strong man stands,

and Grover stood.

Bore the mark of braves,

the sign of Dog Soldiers:

scars,

jagged and deep.

No weapons.

Empty hands.

Brave breath.

Inspired heart.

Vision quest

to Black Buffalo:

introspection.

Dream narrative

by Ancient Owl:

new direction.

Naked heat,

sweat lodge,

purify.

Voice of reason,

four seasons

Great Spirit

from big sky.

Grover roves,

holy role,

medicine wheel,

hoop circle,

sage smudging,

trudging in snow,

sand painting,

tainted spirits

must go.

New visions –

no indecision.

Peyote,

Bill Cody,

who gets the bill

for buffalo loss?

A Nation’s cost –

too much to bear.

A blameless shaman

in an uncommon time

for shameless acts.

Revised racism.

High-velocity

religiosity –

with Spirit Man

confidence scam:

each bear some blame.

New Deal times two —

Roosevelt won,

Collier’s opus:

rez’ life

merely hopeless:

a distinct improvement.

Old Ones see

reservation breed

child-man

into man-child.

What improvement?

Some jingle-jangle in jeans,

but seams still split,

dreams all wet;

met the enemy

“he” is me.

“Give us this day”

“Forgive us our way”

Thirty pieces of silver

still lay on the ground.

Shaman unheeded.

Grover is told,

“Not needed today

or tomorrow.”

Title is lifted,

off rez’ Grover drifted.

Territorial goodbye

hello Texas sky.

From prophet to profit,

a Sun Dancer rancher

who looked back to see

the rez’ deep in sorrow.

A redskin in Red Rock,

red clay by the border;

a good shaman shunned

when Tribal Council judged

when pockets jingled

with Judas coins.

Red betrayed red –

mineral rights –

elemental means –

mimic “white eyes”

for jingling jeans.

Tradition is lost –

the cost to progress –

ceremonial dress tainted –

no happiness.

No sign ever shown

of Grover’s grief;

forsaking the herbs

and raisin’ the beef.

Holy he lived

and holy he died;

one thought ever-present,

my people survive! 

 

© JW Thomas

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12 thoughts on “Grandfather

    • jwtatfbc May 6, 2016 / 3:23 am

      My maternal grandfather is who I wrote about; but the picture is not him.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Mary Cathleen Clark May 6, 2016 / 3:29 am

        I thought so. Quite a story in your words, and a great tribute to a man I can see you admire.

        Liked by 1 person

      • jwtatfbc May 6, 2016 / 3:30 am

        I do indeed. And thank you, my friend. He was strong and proud, with very few words. But you always listened when he did speak.

        Like

      • jwtatfbc May 6, 2016 / 3:36 am

        Sound advice, Cathy. Too many people want to shout over people to get heard that they often miss words of wisdom that could do them some good.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Mary Cathleen Clark May 6, 2016 / 3:40 am

        Our elders have so much knowledge to share that comes from a lifetime of living, but our society doesn’t value their wisdom anymore…it’s all about youth. Their loss, my friend.

        Liked by 1 person

      • jwtatfbc May 6, 2016 / 3:41 am

        Sad, but true, Pretty Lady. I’m glad you learned from your elders in that wonderful “Walton’s-like” family of yours.

        Like

      • jwtatfbc May 6, 2016 / 3:48 am

        And good night and sweet dreams to you as well, Pretty Lady.

        Liked by 1 person

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