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North American Dreaming: Leaving The Gray Shroud Of Carlisle

...O, that the great dances, the great songs will be sung again!
At the lodges and fires burning high into native skies!
That our young will never forget the tree that bore them,
The river that washed them,
And the wilds that fed them!...

William Burkholder's poem imagines the burning, indomitable thoughts of a Native American woman.

For more of Bill's powerful poems please click on North American Dreaming in the menu on this page.

"I am leaving this gray, Carlisle shroud!"
She refused to wear the feathers of a crow,
Refused to pluck her eagle's wings,
To become less of the human being that she is.
Walking out into sun cast meadows,
Flowers dripping,
A free woman's perfume.
"If I were to be a white woman,
The great father would have made me so!
I am Indian, Native American,I am Squaw to no man, Ever!''
She came to the end of the walk,
Unable to speak any further,
Mind racing at the thoughts, the changes, the pain inflicted on her people.
O, that the great dances, the great songs will be sung again!
At the lodges and fires burning high into native skies!
That our young will never forget the tree that bore them,
The river that washed them,
And the wilds that fed them!
" O, Carlisle! why do you place this spear in our hearts?
Why must we be made to walk as the turtle, when we are the Elk, the fox,
and the Buffalo?"

There soiled, blood stained hands, she refused to grasp,
back turned,
she walks, runs, and tries to forget,
The Gray shroud of Carlisle.

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