To sit peacefully before a log fire,
Wind moaning in the polar landscape,
To scrape a film of flies
from a washtub of reservation water,
To have no voice but the north coast
Heron stalking on the wind and laugh,
No voice but the spotted bull dolphin's
Tangled in the purse seine net and laugh,
No voice but the blotched and crook-
Jawed salmon after mating on its way
To die and laugh,
a voice of all these animal and human
Forms about to starve or fade
Or be driven from the earth and laugh.
Recall old tribes of the mountainous northwest,
Whose young men, seeking visions,
Climbed high buttes affording
Sheer views of the blue-threaded sacred river,
ardor of the task manifold
In sweetness of the vision.
I think of one such man, how halfway down
The ordinary tapestry of perfection
He saw something strange, as through a warp, in future distance.
I think it was us he saw.
The flash from Champlain's blunderbuss,
The Caribbe kings driven from
their parrot-haunted kingdoms.
The Iroquois orators and the
Rome of the Hurons
Going down in self-inflicted flames.
The smallpox-stricken Mandan vanishing
From their buffalo-anointed river bluffs,
Sitting Bull shot in the back
By Sioux police, the clenched
Hope of the ghost dance revelers,
The congealing ice at Wounded Knee Creek.
He saw it sideways,
As ozone-deflected ultraviolet light
Bounces off earth into space,
Saw it, what was to come,
Died smiling, entering the water.