American Native Press Archives and Sequoyah Research Center

American Native Press Archives and Sequoyah Research Center

Nightfall: poems by Elgin Jumper; Number Two - Native American Chapbook Series II [a machine-readable transcription]


 

Nightfall Book Cover

Figure 1. "Nightfall book cover"

Copyright 2006 Elgin Jumper, All Rights Reserved

Published by

Sequoyah Research Center
301A Ottenheimer Library
University of Arkansas at Little Rock
2801 S. University Avenue
Little Rock, Arkansas 72204

Elgin Jumper, a member of the Seminole Tribe of Florida as well as a member of the Otter Clan, is a poet, a short story writer, an essayist, and an artist. He is currently involved in creative writer and other artistic workshops at the Broward Community College (South Campus) in Pembroke Pines, Florida, where he is contributor to Pan Ku', a BCC publication and publishes his work in The Seminole Tribune, a tribal publication.

Cover Art by the Author

The Native Writers Chapbook Series II is published by the Sequoyah Research Center at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. Chapbooks are published simultaneously in hard copy and in digital format in the Tribal Writers Digital Library on the Center's website, ualr.edu/sequoyah. Native writers without substantial previous publications who wish to submit their work should contact the editor by email at jwparins@ualr.edu.

 

Table of Contents

Native Poems

Silver words, lightning-like, strike
across the night sky.  I am a celestial writer
riding the orange tail of a shooting star glittering gold.
I'm writing native poems.
I smile from behind dark clouds
allied with the long night of sorrow.
Still azure teardrops, purple amethyst flowers
and blue topaz feelings communing with a yellow moon,
not quite getting a word in edgewise
in the deepest blue ocean's adrift.
But I'll invoke the forces of tomorrow, turquoise
poetry to come invade my silvery night
to cross the borders with ancient formations
in the hottest battles of the glowing dawn.
I'll recite sacred poetry for the wings of the air,
I'll savor so her speed of light regalia
dedicated to a thousand burning suns.
Dear Mother Earth visions
recall Indian Summers long ago.
I'll pour a sparrow's lonely teardrops
through a pen and weep as words take flight,
silver words, light lightning, strike out
across the night sky.


A Better Road of Dreams, 1978

At the Seneca Indian School, four of us didn't want to follow the rules.
We skipped school, went AWOL all the way to Miami--they have one in
Oklahoma too--and then, of course, we were gonna be about where ever
the night took us--if the night said shadows, we were going where shadows
walked and tried to hitch rides and sing cool Led Zeppelin songs.  Prayer,
a friend, said she knew an ancient lady near the pear groves up and over
the next hills, and so we trudged on thataway, cars passin' us and blowin'
horns like crazy, frightened deed chargin' off to dense thickets and trees
beside the forlorn highway and the night comin' on.  We had a supply of Three
Musketeers, Butterfingers, and Baby Ruth, all slowly melting in their wrappers.  Two
Seminole males from Florida and two Seminole females from Oklahoma.
We were in the fifth and sixth grades, thirteen or fourteen, and way too young
to be out at night, but we thought bulletproof.  We could've been in bed dreamin'
about poetry or art and life, but we weren't, we thought we knew everything
and then some beyond the bitter cold and the road.  Someone started singin'
and Aerosmith tune "Walk This Way" and so we did, takin' in the indigo blue
hills and the chilly wind.  I held hands with my girl, Flower.  She told me about life
in her hometown of Oklahoma City, how the Indians there don't have
reservations, no, they have their own precious cities.  I couldn't imagine it, so
I didn't.  She was probably just sellin' me a fake dream anyway, so I pulled
a cracklin' leaf from a skinny tree and let the light breeze take away, saw it
carried over a rickety wire fence to land in the blue darkness, far from home
and lost in woe.  Flower's hand was small and soft, brown and lady-like,
and when we walked we walked as if we were movin' throughout the world
hand in hand, in our own minds tranquilized, never realizing our true purpose,
we were too smart for that.  While the other Seminole couple walked a short
distance ahead of us, I told her a story of a young fool with no prospects,
no future, no way of seein' the big picture.  I was drownin' in the cold
waters of wasted youth, too late to change my mind.  But there were stories
that kept creepin' into my head, wonderful little tales of various hues, tones
and tints.  I can hear them now, their heavenly voices saying with all courtesy
the things I held so dear.  Others were quirkier, more hilarious, silly.  Well, we
ventured on in our excursion, thinking we're doin' grown folks business
when down came the rains.  I could've told the one about the stoic natives
on Mars who were nearly wiped out after some five hundred years
of contact with Earth's encroaching colonizers, how museums
used to have photos showin' the natives after a sacred hunt on the Red
Planet, how the native images vanished from the photo along with that
of the slain Martian beast they'd just been givin' thanks for so that nothing
remained but the red landscape of the red mind at night, the fiery red plumes
of their campfires rising, ascending, interchanging paths with shooting stars.
There was no one home at the ancient lady's house so we took it slow, more
time to talk about other ordeals with Indians like when they took away
languages and hair and smiles and separated families to destroy a people's
dream, to annihilate their hopes and aspirations.  That night a state trooper
pulled up on the road and shouted for us to give up, for our safety as well
as his.  Sure, sure, we tried to make like we didn't see him, but he could still
see us so we came in, having gotten nowhere.  After we got back to school,
we thought we'd be showered with accolades for our antics.  It was not to be.  We were
hungry, cold and wet from the frigid rain.  I half thought I heard a death song in the
distance near a winding creek at the bottom of the hill.
It was as much a beginning as it was the ending of a dream.  Indians
would be goin' home soon, but would they ever be the same?  When I think
back on those days from the hills of where I am today, I can still see us,
we're walking a road.  Have I walked fair roads, or were those roads sinuous
and filled with danger?  Perhaps bad dreams perish sometimes so
the tiniest seeds of better dreams, better days, can deeply root.  And I, who have walked
two roads in one life, find now a better road of dreams.



Hymns for the Sacred Path

For awhile
I was a hymn
spreading unencumbered wings.
The morning-glory heaven
of your prayer was oblivion dawn in enchanted light
and yet thou warmest suns gave life
and yet thou granted infinite miracles of truth
and yet thou art the Maker of Breath,
the Creator,
the Sacred Path for all to follow.



Nightfall

The night is a dark song
unsung on a barren road,
her diamonds spill out
across an indigo sheet of sky,
she takes a cold, desperate grip
on the steering wheel
and the warm passions in silver teardrops
which gives off black rose fragrances for nightfall,
her tastes are akin to opaque coffee, but straight with no frills.
Night screams harsher tastes, too, if she so desires:
a sad farewell to a Lakota girl in Brigham City, Utah, 1980, when I was young and
idealistic--
Well, I wasn't as idealistic as I should've been, put it that way.
Yet morning flowers smell rather like the times
we skipped school on misty mountains
and yet the masterpieces we painted in those days
still adorn the walls of my memories--
we could never have painted them without all those lovely colors.
Hold up, hold up, pump your brakes, pump your brakes!
Yeah, we followed a winding dirt road and were made stronger by it:
"Care for any cheese with that whine?" she asked me back then.  The sparkling
champagne glasses plus her novels and turquoise jewelry went with the flow and
embraced us through the long, perilous night.
Our sorrows were cause enough for celebration
so we emerged from those precious tears
to restore darkness to a bright world.
And of course, "E. G." was there, in the zone,
leading the parade that chased him out of town.
Yet he'll endure in the shimmer and glare of the night where iridescent whispers from
tainted words foretell a wizard's tale.  Hey, if I knew the tale myself, I'd write it up as a
chapbook to nighttime.  I know the night; it doesn't las forever, for Silence sings it forth
as a lonely child and Tempest merely weeps, demoralized.
So I stand beside the sacred fires of my soul
and purify with sage and sweetgrass
and sad farewell songs for nightfall.




All Kinds of Dancers

I can see dancers in parade coming our way.  I'm cavorting with a Lakota girl in front of the campus theatre showing Scanners, and I can see there's Navajos in the parade, there's Iroquois, too, Chippewa, Kiowa, Coeur d'Alene, Pawnee, Hopi, Mohawk, Comanche, Apache, Shawnee, Shoshone, Ponca, Crow and many others.  The Navajos are in the front, Sacred Clowns, I believe, all made up in sacred paint and looking as ominous and as admonitory as one of my math teachers.  It's an all native parade, see, so there's all kinds of dancers, there's Lakota dancers, friends of friends, you know, beautiful and lovely shawl dancers, their bright outfits like a rainbow dancing on the colorful fringes of native ritual and regalia, multi-colored bustles and feathers in brilliant reds, yellows and fiery oranges and shawls and breech cloths and leggings and other native fineries.  And Seminoles are out there as well, with their dresses and capes and jackets fashioned from colorful patchwork designs and the young men with ceremonial turbans and splendid plumes.  Meantime native students sing native songs to the onrushing night and cold mountain winds hum through the sounds as if in harmony.  So amazing is the feeling we share.  "This is so cool," I tell her, "we rarely get this back home in Florida, maybe at the tribal fair once a year."  She tilts her head back, laughs for a moment, then says, "I love this, "Gin, I love this.  And it's so cool."  A blue swirl of smoke ascends from her Marlboro lips to the all-important sky and prodigious mountains overlooking us, sinuously vanishing as it goes.  She's got on blue jeans and a light blue halter top and she seems totally oblivious to the cold which chills this South Florida boy too far from home.  She waves to some Nez Perce friends of hers and they wave back, and shout out, "Hey, girl, we'll meet y'all at the Care Center tonight after we get picked up for partying too much, okay?" and that's how it was back then, not a care wasted on goodness.  So we're standing there burning a fresh jay and feeling cool like crazy, not even contemplating school or homework or anything worthwhile.  Hell, I usually just drew lame pictures of guitars or drum sets or people jamming, anyways.  She's blowing blue smoke rings now and partly humming a Rolling Stones song, Faraway Eyes, I think, so we step back a bit into the past and gaze up at a group of Indians from the Northwestern Tribes moving to and fro to an old Marley jam, Waiting in Vain, listening to Indians and Rastafarians simultaneously.  That's how we did things in the late 70s, at the Inter-Mountain Inter-Tribal Indian School, in Brigham City, Utah.  Now comes a line of souped up Cadillacs, later models, various colors with lady princesses, Indians one and all, with diamond tiaras, they're sitting on hoods waving to the crowds and blowing kisses, followed by late model trucks of different tones with drummers and singers in the back.  And I can see Indian students glittering by, wandering in to the Theatre to watch a man blow his own head to smithereens and then some, with brainpower.  There's Indians all around, some tribes I've never even heard of, some students looking as if there's nary a drop of native blood in them, but then that's all right, I think to myself, least they know who to hang out with and who to pray to, so that's okay.  We take a seat on the steps there to finish off our smoke and roach it for later.  I'm only 14, but I think I'm 40 and I still haven't even lived yet just hanging around, not knowing, no clue.  She asks if I want to skip school tomorrow and climb the mountain.  I immediately answer yet, just as casually as if she had asked if I cared for a soda from the pool hall.  Well, the Indian parade is winding its way past and folks are milling about, wondering where they're going to party next.  We stand forth and start walking.  It's beginning to get darker and colder.  She says, "Hey, let's go by my dorm so I can get me a tee-shirt."  I nod my head in a stoned affirmative.  She takes hold of my hand.  "And I'll get my 8-track player and that new Stones."  She points up at the massive "I" on the side of the mountain, outlined in red, radiant, glowing.  She snuggles close to me, as we pass a few Cheyenne and Chippewa friends of ours, who tell us my old girlfriend is furious, seeking throughout the campus to find us.  They also tell us some tribes just got through fighting each other in front of the skating rink so we take the long way to one of the girls' dorms.  Light snow has only recently begun to fall on the mountaintops, in the last several days or so.  We pass old haunted dorms by the gym and the campus store.  And all I'm thinking is how am I going to tell this girl that I'm going to be sent back home to Florida in the morning, after a mere two months, because of all my mischief, but I've seen the dancers, the moves, the colors, the fineries, my native parade.



The Unconquered, 1842

They seek to banish us from the land we love,
yet I'll reach the Everglades by morning.
They've chased us from the Withlacoochee River
to the Fort King road then to the Okeechobee,
place of Wildcat's battle.  I haven't seen my wife
and children in so long.  A few of us went
to the Loxahatchee River with Tuskegee
and Tuskinia to fight the treacherous general,
yet we withdrew to fight again another day,
the watery green land our ally.  Always moving
south, low on powder and lead, hungry, cold,
weary, pale, sickened by the long war . . .
yet I'll reach the Everglades by morning.
Perhaps I'll find Sam Jones, the others there.
I haven't seen my wife and children for so long,
captured with Osceola under a white flag of truce.



For the Everglades

In the Everglades
            I stand immersed
                        in open sky and clear   
                                    blue miracles in the sun.

I could lose myself       
            in the winding rivers, on
                        the blue lakes of holiness.
                                    I could lose myself in you,

as the saw grass teeth
            are sharpened in winds,
                        as a crow stands guard
                                    over a lonely rest area.


"I am mysterious still,"
            cries the Everglades,
                        "a fantasy to get lost
                                    in over and over again."

I consider a one and only
            region, an eco-system
                        like no other anywhere
                                    on the face of the world.

I can hear new songs
            for our dear Everglades.
                        I can see new flowers
                                    greeting the warm sun.

I sense "a river of grass"
            as a dazzling environmental
                        beauty, a landscape in poetic
                                    forms, a landscape watery.

But beneath the surface
            of the black waters there
                        the perilous alligator,

                                    his back as if raging seas.



Your Own Brand of Philosophy

"Hey, wait up, dog," someone yelled.  "Something's happened out on the rec yard, someone's down.  See all those inmates crowdin' around there by the gun towers?  Yeah, someone's down all right."  Hell, they were doin' that siren bit again, I could see them cons over there by "the weight -pile," they were gettin' shook down.  What an afternoon, I thought.  What happened?  Gangs again, huh?  Bodies broken, awakened from a nightmare inside, tears drownin' him in sleep meant for someone else.  Two Moons, incarcerated some 18 years now, pointed over to a "Life-Flight" chopper strokin' its switchblades over this way, shanks hoverin', wreckin' on the rec yard, I reckon.  Two Moons said a prayer while I tried to manage some coffee from someone before they closed the yard.  But them gangs were always goin' at it, you couldn't get between 'em, you just had to maintain your own brand of philosophy, your own approach to life.  Hey, true that.  Just tickin' away this 25, you know, rollin' like that in a perpetually crazy asylum where resurrected dreamers sang about findin' a higher live now that the man done got him.  I walked blind on the rec yard and seen 'em, the shine from their machinery played out long before, most were animalistic, not all, mind you, but damned near most of 'em who had answered the call of the hated crown, those monarchs in a forsaken realm that no one even considered any more 'cause the luster of their apologies had rambled on far too long.  I heard their stories, how other memorable peasants were severely pained during the long nights, reassembled to become mysteries we only heard of later on, as if loaded guns that went of on a tangent to nowhere, drinking homemade brew 'cause they had 3 life sentences up under 'em and so they plunged into the sweat of exercise, did this and that, twitched when their jaw got broke in the chow hall 'cause they spoke out about saving their soul in the chapel the other day and the chaplain was running around 'cause, according to his information, he couldn't get a hold of that last dead inmate's folks, poor guy . . . so you had to live violence voraciously and try to get through it all in one piece, steada being meat for softness and you stood in line for this and that till you were telling tragic stories of rain and flowers 'cause you couldn't think of anything else to light your way--a con's only got his education and his spirituality, the rest is given to him, take the rest away and he'll know, he'll pray.  But shame glanced now and then, didn't matter though, nothing in there really mattered, hell, you could've smoked straight suicide and shot up pure anguish, no one could've done jack nor raised an evil eyebrow  in disdain, hell, wouldn't have even brooded too much if your "house" got robbed.  The sun looked down on all of us, helpin' the officers to degrade and you couldn't complain the daze away.  Yet the Life-Flight took away the thing that once was a man as we listened to the crowds and the growing cauldron of anger and insanity and the wind that whispered of skills in shank-making so they could hide them up in the dorms and wait for you to sleep so they could creep and split you, crush you, while others more skillful did battle over your house and all it contained, a shrine to dine in, let me tell you.  I read a lot and made my poems, that's how I did my time, writin' about all kinds of motion that recalled nothing at all, that signaled a hopelessness in the scattered thumps hard in the night. "Hey, why's that clown lookin' this way?" Two Moons asked me back in the dorm.  "He's scoutin' somethin for sure."  They'd been gamblin' big-time, losin' everything and when they lost, they came a-searchin' for victims to pay their debts, the broke as a joke darkness in search of everything!  They'd split you delirious, collapse you right between your snake-eyes, the ghost givin' up.  They'd work for a pack of smokes, they'd improvise something for you, they'd show you the error of your ways.  Ooh, hold up, someone just got shanked?  Where's his house?



A Picture of Ned Christie

The Cherokee fugitive poses for an antiquated camera in the Indian Territory.  Long black hair, fearless eyes that stare out the confidence, no smile, and yet a dignity and grace and light degrees of sorrow.  The firm coolness in his right hand as he holds the Colt pistol blends with the proud way he holds the barrel of the Remington rifle in his left.  No fear there.  He wears a light-colored, long-sleeved shirt, light-colored pants with black leather belt and gun holster, the tainted fence behind him and the forces attempting to fence his people in, end his life.  Light and shadow paint the picture here.  A dominant society claimed he took the life of a lawman in 1887, hunted him five years, pubt picture this, he never left his home.  Constant gun battles, constant  scrapes with death.  But this man's no murderer.  For from it.  Once a respected Senator for the Cherokee Nation, now firmly resolved, he prepares to defend his freedom, determined to be who he is and looking the world square in the face.  Once cornered a cannon and dynamite will blast him from his home where he will be gunned down and propped up for ghastly photo ops.  It will be determined later that he had no hand in the killing that made him a fugitive in the first place.





I Like It Like This

He tucks the 9mm., still smoking,
in at his waist, glances at two red roses
in a crystal vase on the desk,
says, "There, all we have are blue skies
now.  Pray he crosses over all right
and is met on the other side
with much exuberance and ritual."  They pray.
The reservation is quiet,
desolate, as they drive out.
His girl shoves in an old CD of guns N Roses,
finds the song "Sweet Child O' Mine,"
leans over and kisses the Seminole thug
on the cheek, sits back and smiles.
She gently pats the large white duffle bag
with thousands of dollars inside.
She runs her hand across the back of his neck,
through his long black hair in a ponytail.
"Care for a drink, a shot?" she asks.
He sighs, drums his fingers on the steering
wheel to the song.  "I like it like this.
Just clear thinking from here on out."
"Okay," she answers.  They ride,
not speaking, taking in Slash's guitar,
Axel's words, absorbing the poetry of it all.
Blue skies stretch out to the north
but in the distance, they see darkness,
a storm brewing somewhere.  They know
they'll be riding into it.  They realize it
in silence, save for the music.



An Encounter With Socrates While in a Holding Cell of the Broward County Main Jail

He was talking about how society treats the homeless.  I was in for being Seminole with not cash, a misdemeanor, I believe.  "And last night," he continued, "I slept near the Fort Lauderdale Museum of Art.  Why, this country cares not for my kind!"  I could see urgency and wisdom in his words.  He was truly philosophin, this one gettin into the whole examination of life bit.  He wasn't into compromisin with his truth but then he went and floored me sayin I didn't know anything.  Imagine that.  "Wisdom, old man," I said.  "You're true wisdom, you know that?"  I knew nothin at all.  And besides, I had a hangover so I probably didn't know nothin.  Then he got up on his hind legs and started spoutin off about the improvement of the soul and stirrin up others to partake in life's infinite spices.  He knew goodness, he said, therefore he did good, but he might have and an open container so the cop had to bring him in, simple as that.  "Corrupted youth!" he yelled, eating a rank bologna sandwich.  Now I always knew what to do, always knew what was expected of me, always knew I was supposed to live right but what happened didn't quite live up to those expectations.  See, there was a world raging within me, a modern world, poisonously ruled by despotic desires and reason and rationality didn't dare exist there, it was a constant struggle.  Just then Socrates screams, "The unexamined life is not worth living!  Quickly, bring me the hemlock!"  "I-I see," I said, now with more caution to my voice.  "W-What are you in for?  W-who's your judge?"  He told me he had once been a gadfly in another life and that his judges had been the ruling powers of Athens.  He could very well have been the Greek philosopher, all bearded up as he was.  And I had dismissed him as just another homeless guy.



Machinery

I feel there's a certain machinery at work here.  I work with a multiplicity of words, right, grinding, turning, screeching, searching for what I must set down on paper or the purged air yet making, making and making.  Sometimes I just soar and the machinery runs smoothly, I feel as if in a dream-like state.  But within the machine there is darkness as well and there are things in there that'll probably never come into the light.  They're scurrying about in the machinery, making noises here and there yet always lurking being the shadows, looming larger than life, creeping in the inexorable motion of the wheels, turning and churning out words--they can say anything, but for now they choose not to--and these experiences in the extreme are all monsters raging and rattling the besmirched walls, howling in the tarnished corridors where foul waters drip and pool, lying stagnant and spawning other creatures that wander about but roaring out every time the machinery jolts violently to and fro and a lot of times, I take a piece of the consciousness that hides in their predatory eyes and before they can snatch it back again, I try to scribble down meaningful words and then hand it back saying, "Thank you . . . God Bless."  Then they storm off into the muck and the mud and the oil of the grieving night, back into black crevices of their scorn but they'll be back in time for devouring pain is so excruciated for them, the dears.




When Poems Appear as Prose

The prose poem is a poem hiding out in plain sight, as prose.  And there's no reading between the lines that don't break into tears every time it looks like something and seems like something else, for a sentence is a sentence is a sentence.  This seems to be the rule.  The Master of Disguise is language that commandeers anything, rides and roams far and wide and high and low, and knows you know, hello, and thrives on a diet of the modern day.  Some say subversion is to blame, but Me, I know the prose poem is one of us, down here in the dust I hold dear.  And none can give a general designation to what Poe (1835), Bertrand (1842), and Baudelaire (1862) unleashed.  And even Hemingway (1923), said to've gotten in on the action.  Hey, what are you rebellin' against, anyways?  The color beige?  I don't know.  What you got?  And how can two mortal enemies find a love that moves on and on 'til the break of dawn, anyhow, that never jumps down the rungs meant to be sung, that never had a chance, yet flourishes, yet nourishes and sometimes speaks eloquence like Pericles (491-429 BC), or seeks to report on such crushing horrors as Wounded Knee (1891), the blood, death, and tragedy of cold, snowy desolations, the hot manifestations of destiny.  Later, though, the dear ol' prose poem shall cook itself into "heartache, and the thousand natural shocks, that flesh is heir to," but the mystical feasts smell and taste of boiled down truth, self-contained in interplay and inlayed with golden leaf and silver birds in flights of prayer, or so images so oft declare, as the flow and surge goes in against the grain and the grains of sand throughout the land reprimands, it is there the prose poem stands in dark silhouette, though out from shadows, warts and all, like a pall enthralled wall to wall, and who really knows, after all, when poems appear as prose?



All That & a Bag of Grief

Once long ago, the fool woke with a hangover & he's thinking:  Dammit! another one of those bastards?  Well, let's do this then, let's do what we always do.  Then he sees him, that son of a bitch who wears that dark-assed hood every damned place he goes no matter what the season.  So Death comes in, right, & he's standing there looking hard at the fool like he done stole something, the fool don't know, he honestly don't.  Then the fool starts to feel it, this ain't no regular run-of-the-mill hangover, 'cause he can't remember all them days shoving stuff up his nose, drinking Jack Daniels & drowning in Florida snow from here to Madison & Century prisons both & thinking he was all that & a bag of grief but now he knows he's not.  He can feel his heart thumping undignified-like, loud as a countryside during war, raging, an insurrection of the soul like Kings have.  The fool's sitting there on an old couch, watching Platoon, skeletons are dancing in the living room, doing cartwheels in the kitchen & fresh graves like mouths are opening up in the floor.  He can't believe it so he tries to tell himself to think on paradise & all that happy crap.  But no, it just keeps on pounding!  Pounding!  He's clutching his chest, thinking, O God, O God, let it stop, please, if this is a dream, let me dream good dreams from now on.  But misery's his company & tears are his world so that won't do 'cause it's just this grim jackass pointing at him saying, "Yeah, your time's up, you knew this was going to happen someday.  You didn't groan like that when you were in the barroom, did you, you weren't "recognizin'" then, were you?  A thrill to have you, by the way.  Don't worry about the fog & those twilight screams, it's just a sheer expression of how I feel, that's all, so come on now, take my bony finger, I'll be faithful to you, just like your were to me in your invitation.  The dark forms behind me crying are only my henchmen, so cry me a river in hell & call it Styx & call me soon as you wake, hear?" & as Death stood back to let the suffering faces take him, the great pounding subsided & the fool lay there on the floor, tear-drenched & thankful.



The Sorrow of Fort Marion

Ancient coquina shell
and coral fortress
on the margins
of Florida forests
and swamps,
on the threshold
of Seminole homeland--
Oh, anguished plight,
weathered prison,
sacred link
to Seminole history,
sorrowed feeling
encapsulated
in time.
I was there
to find
a closer kinship
to my ancestors
in search
of myself,
to discover
where I'd come from.
I felt
the morning's air
on the timeworn
parapets of yesterday,
as cold as when
The Seminoles
imprisoned there
long ago
must've felt it,
chained,
deprived of freedom,
in deep pain
and hurt,
they gazed out
across those same
shores,
across
the endless bay
and yearned
for the golden sunrise
of a better day
and still
only deep blue rain
and hail,
silver wind
and darkness.
Troops housed them
in daily misery,
behind bars
under the gun,
but the Seminoles
never lost
their dignity,
their courage.
You can feel
the sorrow
to this day.
Imagine
a prison
amidst the black
implements of war:
cannons, mortars,
muskets,
bayonets, sickness,
hunger.
And what
ancient tribes
flourished
on that spot
long before
the invaders came?
Never had I beheld
such solemn
sacredness for
War Leader Osceola,
Chieftain, and Royal Prince
of the Forest
King Philip
and Wildcat
and the women
children
and other Chiefs,
Warriors,
captured
under a white flag of truce
and yet ruthlessly
imprisoned there

during the Seminole wars.
Seminole patriots
one and all
in the truest sense
of the word,
this I realize,
stolen, locked away,
to never appreciate
the shade
of the pine,
the live oak,
the cypress
with their venerable
gray-beards
of swaying
Spanish moss,
to never smell
the warm-scented canopy
of green meadow
breath of air,
so that vicious
heartbreak
and immediate death
were the only respite
for the severest
storm.


The Ho-Chunk Nation
has provided generous support for the publication
of the Native Writers Chapbook Series II.





Author: Jumper, Elgin.
American Native Press Archives and Sequoyah Research Center