Saturday, July 01, 2006

Paean To Geronimo


The Desert's mighty Silence;
no fuss of man can spill
A hundred Indians whoop and sing,
And still the Land is still;
But on the city drunk with sound
the whisper is a shout --
'Apaches on the war-path!
Geronimo is out!'

Brave rode our wiry troopers --
they rode without avail;
Their chase he tweaked it by the nose,
and twisted by the tail;
Around them and around he rode --
A pack-train putters slow,
And 'horse and man of ours must eat' --
'Ahnh!' said Geronimo.

They never say a hair of him,
but ever and oft they felt --
Each rock and cactus spitting lead
from an Apache belt,
Where never sign of man there was,
nor flicker of a gun --
You cannot fight an empty hill;
you run -- if left to run!

A prophet of his people, he,
no War-Chief, but their Priest,
And strong he made his Medicine,
and deep the mark he creased --
The most consummate Warrior
since warfare first began,
The deadliest Fighting Handful
in the calendar of Man.

The Desert Empire that he rode
his trail of blood and fire,
Is pythoned, springs and valleys, with
the strangle-snake of wire.
The Fence has killed the Range and all
for which its freedom stood –
Though countless footsore cowboys mill
in mimic Hollywood.

A Tragedy? What wholesale words
we use in petty ways –
For murder, broken hearts of banks,
and disappointed days!
But here an Epoch petered out,
An Era ended flat;
The Apache was the Last Frontier –
The Tragedy is that!

-Charles Lummis of The Los Angeles Times

(Portrait by Edward S. Curtis, 1905)