Edward Curtis’ “Good Lance: Oglala”
Here’s where the light
burns brightest, ghostly furze
that crowns a headdress: a burst
of cool chromatics echoing
through plumage, vest, striped staff,
the very tinting of cheek and lip-
curve; nose like a halo
of spattered fire. So white
we almost have to squint to take him in, to see
the pattern of himself appear, here
where carefully articulated kinks
in the fingers mimic the tunic’s hyphenated
stripes, pale bead blocks that joint
the half-bent arms and thighs: flesh made less
solid by shadow, so all that exists seems
pure bone, the outline of a man
stuffed in his plumage, snowy relic
of a last, good suit now donned for show.
To survive, in this photo, is to remain
all disappearance, caught in the costume
of one’s blanched imprisonment.
His mouth is pursed. His eyes are closed.
For him, to die
is a present act with no possible ending.
Going going going going—
Even alive, he’s history.
Song with Dog and Cemetery
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