Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Peace Path

Grandfather Cuts Loose the Ponies. #WeComeFromEverything

This path our people walked
one hundred two hundred                  endless years
since the tall grass opened for us
and we breathed the incense that sun on prairie
                                                    offers to sky
Peace offering with each breath
each footstep           out of woods
to grasslands plotted with history
removal  remediation                         restoration

Peace flag of fringed prairie orchid
green glow within white froth
calling a moth who nightly
seeks the now-rare scent                  invisible to us

invisible history of this place
where our great-grandfather              a boy
beside two priests and 900 warriors
gaze intent in an 1870 photo        
                                                    his garments white as orchids

Peace flag                                      white banner with red cross
crowned with thorns                         held by a boy             
at the elbow of a priest  
beside Ojibwe warriors                       beside Dakota warriors

Peace offered after smoke and dance
and Ojibwe gifts of elaborate beaded garments
thrown back in refusal 
by Dakota Warriors                           torn with grief 
                                                    since their brother’s murder

This is the path our people ran
through white flags of prairie plants
Ojibwe calling Dakota back
to sign one last and unbroken treaty

Peace offering with each breath
each footstep               out of woods
to grasslands plotted with history
removal  remediation                      restoration

Two Dakota                                  held up as great men
humbled themselves
to an offer of peace
before a long walk south

before our people entered the trail
walking west and north
                                                   where you walk now
where we seek the source

the now-rare scent
invisible as history
history the tall grass opens for us
                                                  Breathe the incense of sun on
      prairie
                                                  Offer peace to the sky


— Heid E. Erdrich


Heid E. Erdrich is the author of Cell Traffic: New and Selected Poems (University of Arizona Press, 2012) and National Monuments (Michigan State University Press, 2008), among others. She lives in Minnesota.

Peace Path was commissioned by the Academy of American Poets in 2016 and funded by a National Endowment for the Arts Imagine Your Parks grant.

In March, poetry organizations across the country are collaborating on the initiative Because We Come from Everything: Poetry and Migration. The Academy of American Poets invites you to join in their effort by sharing these poems about migration, learning more, and helping to spread the word with #WeComeFromEverything.

The image accompanying Peace Path portrays a work of art entitled, Grandfather Cuts Loose the Ponies. The sculpture was designed and created by Chewelah sculptor David Govedare.