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At Geronimo's Grave

Armand Garnet Ruffo
From:   At Geronimo's Grave.

Fierce, tenacious, master of guerilla warfare.

It's what the history books say. Though
at his grave, out of an unyielding sun,
and into a sanctuary of leafy shade, I move
through all that is said and not said
and touch the flowers left for him,
which make me wonder if it is possible for anyone
to have the last word. And I am reminded
that it took five thousand troops to track down
what was left of his Apache, thirty-five
men, women and children. Caught,
they say herded from New Mexico to Florida to Alabama
and finally all the way here to Oklahoma, to so-called
Indian territory (as if the rest of the country wasn't).

They say more.

That by time he died at eighty he had embraced Christianity
and even taken part in a Presidential inauguration.
Part of the parade I suspect, the evidence committed
to memory: last year in England, at the Brighton Museum
(of all places), I bought a postcard of him lost
behind the wheel of a Model T Ford,
looking like he had just fallen out of the sky and
onto the drivers' seat. Portrait of an old Chief in a tophat.
(It was my only purchase.) From there to here in one fatal swoop
as though giant talons have dropped me unexpectedly
onto this site. If I could I would ask him
if he too got plucked up by something larger than himself.

Last of the hold-outs, they call him.

This morning at Fort Sill I saw the windowless cellar
they held him in (not open to the public)
and the other building they transferred him to,
the one turned into a museum and whitewashed.
A notice said he really spent little time in his cell
since he had the run of the place,
like a bed and breakfast, I am led to believe.
Yet, with wilted petals between my fingers soft as grace,
soft as old sorrow, and an even older sun overhead
guiding me beyond this arbor and back onto the highway,
I am left wondering about who he really was.
Oilfields and prairie flowers, barbed wire and distant mesas
red as a people locked behind aging vision
telling me it is the land that will have the last word.

For him whom they also call Prisoner of War.

Armand Garnet Ruffo's works copyright © to the author.

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