by Karenne Wood
You can't take a man's words.
They are his even as the land
is taken away
where another man
builds his house.
- You must have been a sight, Captain John Smith,
as your dugout approached,
with Jamestown's men
sporting plumed hats,
poufed knickers, beards, stockings,
funny little shoes.
You might have looked, to us,
We fought you, we know,
because you wrote it down.
One man was left behind. Wounded.
At your mercy. Among your shining goods—
mirrors, knives, firearms, glass beads—
Where was mercy? Maybe you left it
in England. Eager to learn, Captain Smith,
you asked about the worlds he knew,
whether there was gold,
why his people had fought
when you came to them "in love."
He told you in his dialect,
which no one now speaks.
You recorded his name, his words.
Not his fate.
Of all the words our people spoke
in the year of our Lord 1608,
only his answer remains:
"We heard that you were a people
come from under the world,
to take our world from us."
From Markings on Earth, University of Arizona Press.
© 2001 Karenne Wood
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