In The Summer After “Issue Year” Winter (1873) Poem by Roberta Hill Whiteman

In The Summer After “Issue Year” Winter (1873)

I scratch earth around timpsila
on this hill, while below me,
hanging in still air, a hawk
searches the creekbed for my brothers.
Squat leaves, I'll braid your roots
into such long ropes, they'll cover
the rump of my stallion.
Withered flower, feed us now
buffalo rot in the waist-high grass.

Hear my sisters laugh?
They dream of feasts, of warriors
to owl dance with them
when this war is over. They don't see
our children eating treebark, cornstalks,
these roots. Their eyes gleam
in shallow cheeks. The wagon people
do not think relationship is wealth.

Sisters, last night the wind
returned my prayer, allowing me to hear
Dog Soldiers singing at Ash Hollow.
I threw away my blanket
stained with lies.
Above the wings of my tipi,
I heard the old woman in Maka Sica
sigh for us. Then I knew
the distance of High Back Bone's death-
fire from another world away. Even they
may never stop its motion.

Yesterday at noon, I heard
my Cheyenne sister moan as she waded
through deep snow before soldiers
cut up her corpse to sell
as souvenirs. Are my brothers
here? Ghosts bring all my joy.
I walk this good road between rock
and sky. They dare not threaten with death
one already dead.

Roberta Hill Whiteman

Roberta Hill Whiteman

Oneida Nation of Wisconsin
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