Maurice Kenny

My friend looked a little jittery.
I told Dennis that yes I could handle
the situation alone. Just get in your car
and slowly mosey on down the road   .   .   .
no need for you to get busted.

There were the men   .   .   . stones sitting in a row.
Little Belly, Young King, Tall Peter,
Deerfoot, Captain Pollard, Destroy Town,
Red Jacket and General Ely S. Parker.

To see their headstones under October sun
in that cemetery I remembered how Ford
and Helen took me for a drive the day before
through the mountains along the highway which
aproned the Kinzua dam to find Cornplanter's grave.
The black cat which crossed our lost
country way misled us into several wild-
goose chases. So we headed back toward Sala-
manca where I was to read poems in the new
library. Funny. We laughed pretty hard afterwards,
Helen and Robert and Ford, because we sat
in that sterling new library waiting for an audience
which hadn't been invited. One young woman,
a student, I guess, came to our table
in the children's section and expressed how much
she loved poetry and how much she would love to stay
and hear poems, but well, next time I came to
Salamanca, not then, however. Tomorrow was
a school day and she had phys-ed homework.
The four of us balled up in the yellow jalopy,
drove off to find Jerry Rothenberg's old house
in town and a Dunkin' Donuts figurin' the town
didn't want any hostile Mohawk reading poems
to their Seneca Indians. I cashed the fat check
when I got back to Buffalo   .   .   . real fast with thanks.

Anyway, as I said, I told Dennis to get into the car,
start the motor, and leave slow. I was gonna cause
trouble. I'm really pretty proud of him, a white guy.
He did turn the ignition on, did start the motor,
but waited for my messy trouble to commence.

Right in the heart of Little Belly's stomach
stood an American flag in the traditional
"red, white and blue"   .   .   . not synonymous
with "turtle, bear and wolf." The flag lifted
from the earth easily; and its stick broke neatly in half.

Which reminds me. Do you know the U.S. Post Office
recently printed a 13 cent stamp to commemorate
Crazy Horse, the Lakota warrior? The proc-
lamation said because Crazy Horse had been,
and I quote, "a Great American." I think
the government is searching out his hidden grave now
to plant a small flag pole on it, too.

© 1988 Maurice Kenny

From Is Summer This Bear and reprinted in On Second Thought, University of Oklahoma Press.

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