Friday, February 10, 2017

Bearing Witness to the Times: Bury My Heart

(Photo by Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Image)

Bury My Heart

“Bury my heart at Wounded Knee*.”
Bury our soul at Standing Rock.
Bury our children in the rubble of corporate greed.

In times past,
Those in power 
Sought to remove the indigenous people
By removing their primary natural resource.
Thus began a campaign of slaughter
That nearly drove the American bison to extinction.
It was the logical extension
Of violent disregard
And relentless acts of genocide
Exacted over 200 years of “New World” settlement.

A reprieve was granted.
The bison was ultimately spared
On small parcels of land.

The people were also spared extinction
To live on small parcels of land
Where their children would be robbed of their heritage,
Their elders would be ridiculed,
And their warriors would be doomed
To a life of alcohol and despair.

For 100 years thereafter,
The bison ran
And gained in number.
The people slowly shook off
The manacles of cultural oppression.
Today they make one more stand
At Standing Rock.

They stand as a witness
Against our penchant for destroying natural resources.
They stand as a witness
For human dignity.
They stand as a voice 
In support of the good earth.

While they stand,
They rally a nation.
Yet the well-oiled wheels of an industry
That cannot see its own end
Move to crush the resistance
           to exhaust our resources,
           to pollute the land
           to disregard the humanity it claims to serve.

One more stand
May lead to more burials,
Yet the good earth will remain
Long after our bodies lie in the rubble
Of our own recklessness.

The good earth will flower
After we are gone.
Nature will endure
With or without humanity.
Our song may give hope to the world
Yet the world may one day have to spin
Without our song.

Bury my heart.
Bury my soul.
Bury my children.

                                                ~ CK


* “Bury my heart at Wounded Knee” is a line from the poem, “American Names,” by Stephen Vincent Benet. It is also the title of a book by Dee Brown, subtitled “An Indian History of the American West.” Wounded Knee was the site of the last conflict between the U.S. Army and Native Americans. On December 20, 1890, the Wounded Knee Massacre at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation (Lakota) in South Dakota was the culmination of the Ghost Dance Movement and ended the Indian Wars. 300 Native Americans died that day. Wounded Knee is also the site where the parents of Crazy Horse buried his heart in 1877.

American bison (photo by Skeeze courtesy of Pixabay)

*   *   *   *   *

From my introductory post:

The best thing that poets can do is to bear witness to the times – articulate what is happening in the moment; speak to the real life experiences of your people.  I am setting myself a goal to write a poem each week that reflects what I see and experience in the life of our nation... if I can write one poem a week there will be some chronicle of our sacred/tested/doubtful union.


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