No More Forever
The moment Chief Joseph turned away
And led them from the land of paradise
I knew the exodus in my heart;
Such overwhelming beauty and solitude
Abandoned, autumn setting in, the army
Of the white men, dark and descending,
Just behind them, an encroaching Thunder
Cloud of evil, rising, thirsty for their blood.
For two years their relentless shadow
Dogging them, the pursuant and the smell
Of eminent genocide, until finally their broken
Spirit was torn from Chief Joseph’s heart
His will and hope crucified just forty miles short;
“I will fight no more forever” he said.
“I will fight no more” is written in the sky
The mountains, the rivers and lakes here.
“Forever” is far away horizon line toward
The Snake River. This is an unsettled peace
Where ancestors are heard in the winds,
Deer raise their heads suddenly, hearing them,
Tall firs stir, smoke from fires stir, the land is stirring
Under the demise of summer, leaves turning over
Again in the wake of forgetfulness. In my heart
The meditative dance and chant of the Nimíipuu,
The music of the stream, the wake in Wallowa Lake,
The echoing of the eagle scars our living memories.
I will fight no more forever he said.
He rose above his calling and was saved by nothing.
In the typical French way trappers mistook the Nimíipuu
For the Chinook, though they did not at all look the same.
After William Clark, the suicide of tribal life continued forever.
Totalitarian peace is not peace at all, the countryside now
Outside of Pendleton, carries many ghosts and sorrows
That still live in the eyes of the broken tribe, that live in forests
Where once, on foot, forefathers walked west from the Rockies,
Settled nearby, just to the north, where Chief Joesph’s father
Looks out from his simple grave on the north end of Wallowa,
The scent of dry pine in the air, the lazy bird of prey, floating.
* Nez Perce Indians--
Their name for themselves is Nimíipuu (pronounced [nimiːpuː]),
meaning, "The People," in their language, part of the Sahaptin family.
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