The Crazy Horse Monument Faces East

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Rapid City wears its patriotism like a shroud.

Corner streets are populated with less than

life-size statues of past presidents

squinting at the distant Black Hills

where the grandeur of Mt. Rushmore

casually crumbles their bronze dreams.

 

Wax settlers, loggers and gold miners

stake claims with souvenir hunters

touring a mine, panning for fool’s gold.

 

In nearby Custer, 75 breaths  from Wounded Knee,

shops hawk Chief Joseph, Sitting Bull, Geronimo t-shirts

proclaiming them “ The Original Founding Fathers.”

Mixed in are those in star-spangled letters and fireworks

proudly streaming “Welcome to America. Now Speak English.”

 

Rushmore was dynamited from a cliff

by a creator who spent the rest of his life

erecting grand Confederate gestures

out of virgin Georgia quartz monzonite—

finished and opened 100 years to the day

after Abraham Lincoln’s assassination.

 

Thirty minutes from Rushmore, existing in its shadow

on private land filled with dusty trails,

unfinished after seventy years,

probably still unfinished after twenty  more,

facing away from these great stone faces,

emerging from the side of great Thunderhead Mountain,

 

on an ivory stead with a mane of flowing river and wind,

exists the Oglala Lakota warrior Tasunke Witko

the worm of Crazy Horse the Old and Rattling Blanket Woman,

sibling of Little Hawk and Laughing One, memory of the spirit of

Black Buffalo and White Cow who walked with an Iron Cane,

all enclosed with him in this massive breath of white stone.

 

The history of this great Indian space stretches the land,

four times higher than the Statue of Liberty,

extending beyond the warrior frown, the pointing left arm.

The horse’s ear alone is the size of a rusty  reservation bus.

When finished it will be the largest sculpture in history,

bigger than the land, breath and all of Indian memory.

 

It was the Vision Quest of Chief Henry Standing Bear to show the whites that the red man had great heroes, too.

In a man named Korczak he found a kindred spirit,

a storyteller in stone, a survivor of Omaha Beach,

who when the first wife faltered, found a second

who gave him enough children to carry, sculpt the Bear Dream.

 

The big chief’s face is still the only finished part.

Korczak’s wife and children toil with the rest,

struggling to capture the essence of a warrior

who never allowed his shadow to be snared

in the false glow of the white man’s light,

trusting only the rain beams that fall

 

onto his people, mountains, plains and buffaloes,

onto Paha Sapa, “the heart of everything that is,”

where the Lakota huddled while the world was created,

now a land of broken treaties and dying dreams,

drenched in the dust of tears underneath,

while this white face torn from red gazes East.

 

 

Wounded Knee is not only the sight of an 1800’s Indian Massacre but the rumored burial spot of Sitting Bull.

 

The grand confederate gesture refers to Stone Mountain park, a Mt Rushmore etched with the faces of the Confederacy: Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis and Stone Wall Jackson.

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