Rosebud ā€” Jon Anderson

There is a place in Montana where the grass stands up two feet,

Yellow grass, white grass, the wind

On it like locust wings & the same shine.

Facing what I think was south, I could see a broad valley

& river, miles into the valley, that looked black & then trees.

To the west was more prairie, darker

Than where we stood, because the clouds

Covered it; a long shadow, like the edge of rain, racing towards us.

We had been driving all day, & the day before through South Dakota

Along the Rosebud, where the Sioux

Are now farmers, & go to school, & look like everyone.

In the reservation town there was a Sioux museum

& ‘trading post’, some implements inside: a longbow

Of shined wood that lay in its glass case, reflecting light.

The walls were covered with framed photographs.

The Oglala posed in fine dress in front of a few huts,

Some horses nearby: a feeling, even in those photographs

The size of a book, of spaciousness.

I wanted to ask about a Sioux holy man, whose life

I had recently read, & whose vision had gone on hopelessly

Past its time: I believed then that only a great loss

Could make us feel small enough to begin again.

The woman behind the counter

Talked endlessly on; there was no difference I could see

Between us, so I never asked.

The place in Montana

Was the Greasy Grass where Custer & the Seventh Cavalry fell,

A last important victory for the tribes. We had been driving

All day, hypnotized, & when we got out to enter

The small, flat American tourist center we began to argue.

And later, walking between the dry grass & reading plaques,

My wife made an ironic comment: I believe it hurt the land, not

Intentionally; it was only meant to hold us apart.

Later I read of Benteen & Ross & those who escaped,

But what I felt then was final: lying down, face

Against the warm side of a horse & feeling the lulls endlessly,

The silences just before death. The place might stand for death,

Every loss rejoined in a wide place;

Or it is rest, as it was after the long drive,

Nothing for miles but grass, a long valley to the south

& living in history. Or it is just a way of living

Gone, like our own, every moment.

Because what I have to do daily & what is done to me

Are a number of small indignities, I have to trust that

Many things we say to each other are not intentional,

That every indirect word will accumulate

Over the earth, & now, when we may be approaching

Something final, it seems important not to hurt the land.