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VII wounded knee Now in the waning of the afternoon They neared the place where, topping the divide, A lonely butte1 can see on every side Where creeks begin and where they wander to. And lo! the guidons and the crawling blue Of cavalry approaching down a hill!2 The people halted, staring, and were still With wonder. Was the vision growing real? They heard the leather singing with the steel. The long hoof-murmur deepened. Summits rang With happy echoes when a bugle sang. The sleek-necked horses knew their kin and neighed A joyous greeting. Up the cavalcade The trailing welcome clamored to the end; And, rousing to the music of the friend, The feeble ponies nickered back to those. Then mightily the people’s song arose, And all the valley was a holy place To hear it: “Father, I have seen his face, The stranger’s face made beautiful! Behold, My sprouting heart is green!” Around them rolled The steel-shod thunder, closing in the rear. “The stranger’s face made beautiful and dear,” They sang with lifted hands, “I see! I see!” Along a flat beside the Wounded Knee They camped at sundown, lacking neither wood Nor water; and the tattered tepees stood Within the circled tents beneath a low And sloping hill where, glooming in a row, The wagon-guns3 kept watch upon the town. A gentle spirit with the night came down, And like a father was the Soldier Chief.4 Strong-hearted, of the plenty of his beef, The plenty of his bread, he gave to eat; And plenty was the sugar to make sweet His many-kettled coffee, good to smell. And much he did to make the children well Of coughing, and to give the mothers rest; And for the burning in Sitanka’s breast His holy man made medicine that night. One people in a blooming ring of light They feasted; and within the blooming ring A song was born: “For every living thing We send a voice! Lean closer, One Who Gives! A praying voice for everything that lives! Lean close to hear!” Sleep came without a care. Above them, with a face of old despair, The late moon brooded, watching for the sun. Almost it seemed the miracle was done That morning of a weather-breeding day. The spell of bright tranquility that lay Upon the land wrought eerily with sound, And strangely clear the voices were around 578 the song of the messiah The crackling fires, yet dreamily remote. Straight-stemmed, the many smokes arose to float Dissolving umbels5 in the hollow blue, Where, measuring some endless now it knew, A patient, solitary buzzard wheeled. Northwestward where the Black Hills lay concealed Behind the bluest ridge, a faint cloud ’rose, As though the peaks and flowing slopes of those Were stretching up to see what might betide. And now Sitanka, when a bugle cried, Awakened to the prison of his bed. A nearer neighbor to the shining dead Than to the darkly living ones, he lay And heard, as in a dream and far away, A deep hoof-rumble running in the land And briefly singing voices of command, Clipped upward with an edge to be obeyed. Again the bugle cried and, ceasing, laid A sudden stillness over all the camp. A troop-horse pawed no longer, ceased to champ The bit and shake the bridle. Awful grew That stillness of the vision coming true, That crystal moment of eternity Complete without a shadow. He could see, As though his tepee were illumined air, The whole enchanted picture breathing there About him: all his ragged band between The horsemen, southward, skirting the ravine, And footmen, northward, ranged beneath the hill; The soldiers on the summit, tall and still Beside those war-dogs6 crouched on eager paws 579 Wounded Knee With thunder straining in their iron maws7 The leash of peace; the children unafraid, With thirsting eyes and mouths agape to aid In drinking all that splendor, gleaming brass On serried8 blue! He listened for the grass. Scarce real in seeming as the hush it broke, A voice arose. The Soldier Chieftain spoke. Remotely clear, the sound itself was kind, And, trailing it a little way behind, A voice made meaning that was gentle too. The speaking ceased. Among the tepees grew A busy murmur like the buzz and boom Of bumblebees at work on cherry bloom In hollows hushed and happy in the sun. Now surely was...


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