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Indian Agent
by Ed Bennett

Philadelphia filled the sky
with masts of merchant ships,
bustled through its daily commerce
until the week's end when God
came to the Meeting House,
sat among the just society,
tested us to do His bidding.

I was the fourth son, without prospect,
taught to read and cipher
so I could make my way,
grow prosperity from a pious seed
that settled in the mountains
where I earned my bread as agent
to the pacified Cheyenne

whose only boast was their pride,
unbroken, even here in the Black Hills,
the patch allotted to warriors
expected to turn the earth with plows,
trade the great hunt of the bison
for the silent growth of corn and squash,
until gold was found on their promised earth.

I could not stop the miners from dredging
every scrap of land, river and graveyard
nor could I stop the Dog Soldiers
from raiding the mining camps, killing
to stop greed with the pride of
ancient Saxon kings convinced
that bravery could quell this tide.

I could not stop the soldiers or
the blood lust of new militias raised
to protect their commerce,
who refused the difference between
warrior and wife, combatant or child
until most of them were dead,
the tribes gutted, the gold secure.

I saw their blood wash the ore
prised from their sacred mountains,
heard the last chant of the Dying Song
rise from my lips to my God
who bartered deafness for my rage,
my new life as drunken, fallen Quaker
carrying the perfidy of my white skin.


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