And then one day Black Elk knew.
And he called to the poet that he loved best
And he said, "take my words and write them:
My people were a beautiful people." The poet heard
Him and he understood.
"Write this: in the coldest winter of my people
I with my grandfather received elk in the snow.
Our people were hungry and we fed them. It was
A miracle. We knew many miracles. We knew on
That day that we knew what the elk knows."
The scribe heard and wrote and understood.
"When I went to England, I saw that there the
Sky is just the same. It is so everywhere.
The sky makes a hoop around us. All wheels
Are sacred. Circles can be broken. Life is a circle.
The hoop on my nation is broken. Write."
What he heard the scribe wrote.
"In this hoop of sky you are always at the center,
The center is everywhere. Once I thought I could
Save my people. I thought my vision was for them.
The wheel of my tribe is broken. Write. Someone
Black Elk passed; the poet wrote; the poet passed;
The circle grew smaller, and then the book was closed.
The hoops of many nations have been broken.
Words scatter like dust. No beauty has long survived
Where we find it, no matter the poet's power.
In the cold of winter the elk still pass in silence
Through fields of Canadian snow. They
Concern themselves only. Their being can no
Longer save anyone. I have seen the quick light of
Headbeams catch them. Theirs is a fragile hoop too.
- David Donlon