We flipped small coins for fun
and like Apache arrows flew into the morning sun
calling curses on the day,
this was the way we knew.

Ceaselessly the air swirled round the sacred ancient hunting ground until we found the buffalo and John Crow said,
‘better dead than being brave,we are the slaves of appetite’
and then the night of death rained on and soon the buffalo were gone.

Bones and stew make bedfellows too and this is what we’ve got
the empty stomach
empty cooking pot and not a beast seen anywhere.
No happy hunting ground,no arrows leased,no feast,not least no children born,no warming sun,harsh winters come and we must run away
this was the way we knew.

Soldiers blue and few we were
did we dare to dream tomorrow would arrive,could we,would we learn to live and survive on reservation land,live hand to mouth,or would we move on South to Mexico
where peasants till the soil and shattered spirits go.

This was the way when plainly night became our day and pipes of peace were smoked no more,
ruled under a different law
the rule of handout,get out,turn round about and cry
the way of life we knew did die
but we the children are living on in stories told in elders huts,where cuts of jerky hang on skin lined walls and voices hush as the old one calls for spirits that he’s known to rise
and cries again at so much pain and so much lost
and all it cost him and his tribe.

Describing monuments to men,like paintings of the mists and when you think you’ve got it almost right
the swirling buffalo moves off again into the endless night
it’s difficult,impossible,I can’t explain except to say,
‘that, what is pain but loss and heartache’
the breaking of another lance and one more agreement,one more given chance,
One plain speaking man of breeding
his people home.

copyright © John Smallshaw all rights reserved