(I'm only guessing that Darrell wrote this. It turned up in my computer as I cleaned it out. It might be by several people. It's not dated nor identified and I don't remember seeing it earlier.)
I am not a good writer; still, a long time ago I discovered my own existentialism. I saw one dead man walking outside this morning. He was left over from yesterday’s fire to trace his footsteps throughout this long day. Who said there was a purpose? Who said there was time? Who said there was any promise? Who decided to climb a mountain and create a god? Who made this man apostolic?
There is only a minute for each one of us to find an eternity of nothing. In that moment I discovered the Sand Hills of Cut Bank and my own existentialism. I saw a dead man walking outside this morning, tracing his footsteps this time much closer to the fire. And now I have a story to tell but first must watch one flame burn ever so quickly . . . so blindingly . . . so pointlessly . . .
IGNITION IS EVERYTHING:
I don't know how many times
a bell will ring before I answer
it takes life
to live life
it takes death
to fear death
it takes fate
to cheat fate
it takes time
to take time
it takes love
to lose love
it takes money
to have money
it takes nothing
to become nothing
it takes everything
to deny everything
it takes you
to erase you
it takes me
to find me
cool blue to the touch
white hot intensity
sun hot in my face
blood in the ground
there is no tomorrow
black thrush at night
cry inside my heart
dead man this morning
It's all about the game that is played out on reservations. There are houses, kids, dogs, and a lot of trash. Not much else, but everyone is running—all running to go nowhere. Young people try to grow up as fast as they can to spend their time running up and down the streets: liquor, drugs, sex, and more running around—night after night, day after day. Why is that?
The answer is simple. There is nothing else. No jobs, no money, and very little hope. So run even faster to pretend that life is more than that awful vision that all of us must live out each day, and the day after that. Maybe there will always be dead men walking outside. So what do you think? Is anyone ready to learn just how poverty-stricken and corrupt every reservation town really is?
Poverty is a knife. It will slash deeply into any man’s arms and legs, leaving him weak and tired—one dead man walking outside this morning.
cut some more
don't stop cutting
you have him on the ropes
There is no bandage, only the flesh and blood of some woman's child who should have been a man but could not escape the sharp blade of reservation poverty. Then the knife goes to work on his face, leaving too many scars of pain, time, and ugliness for him to wear each day.
there is no mask
just a worn, scarred face--
did you think otherwise?
Each scar tissue bleeds deeply into another and another until all is quiet. Somewhere an old reservation clock ticks hopelessly, endlessly. Then the anxious knife will slit his throat and watch him bleed freely, slowly, completely.
you thought you knew what life was all about
You stupid fool!
Each drop of blood is a pathetic fallacy of a life that never happened. Still there is another dead man walking outside this morning. Poverty takes its time to slice through the bone and marrow of any hope of a mother-and-child reunion. Just as poverty thrives on the reservation, each boy-child breathes and suffocates before any pretense of manhood can capture his imagination. And his mother is left to have more children.
There is a cure for poverty—Imagination. I know it's true. I know how poor I once was and still am, but I found the secret of imagination when I was young. And that has made a difference. It is not the story of a cold, calculating brain; it is just enough imagination to dream a way out of poverty. It is just enough imagination to know what lies inside the Sun’s lodge. I learned that lesson from Cut Bank John, my great-grandfather. He was a full-blood Piegan, who was a strong man at age eight. He survived the Baker Massacre . . .
. . . soon after the Massacre on the Marias in 1870 some of the horses ran throughout the burning camp. They circled back, stomped the ground, and repeated the ritual. It was really a strange sight. A young boy returned from the brush, searched for any of his family, and surveyed the camp—it was early, very cold, and everything was completely destroyed. His father, mother, and other relatives lay dead in the snow. His mind worked quickly. He joined two brothers and their uncle. As they left camp, he saw what the horses saw: ghosts rising from the dead bodies . . . a deeper realization of life, death, and what happens after that . . . Years later he built a great house and died without a scar on his body. He had a real imagination. His shadow lingers throughout my body, mind, and heart, forming my vision and purpose.
And now I have a real story to tell . . . I don't know if this means anything to you. But to me, it means everything. Imagination is powerful, and I am not weak. Poverty is for cowards and dead-men-walking, and I am not poor. Cut Bank John lives inside my blood, and I don't have a scar on my body. I have a vision and purpose in this life. I understand what a vision is, and I know that I must live my purpose. My vision is to see everything there is inside of me, accept it as part of the man I am, and then cast off the burden of this life and weigh nothing. Then I will journey to the Sand Hills and arrive at the Sun's lodge in four days. Natoyis!
My purpose is to write the most powerful book ever written about the Blackfeet. I have to show that there is real power beyond the shadow of this life. We are not reservation trash; we are not dumb Indians. I have another purpose, and that is education. I am the scholar from hell, the one white people dread because my mind can reduce them to mere scraps of reason. And if they or any of these Indians don’t like it, they can go eat their frybread together and call it culture. A third purpose is home. I have the home that ghosts visit, so they can make me stronger in their world of shadows and substance. Money is also a purpose. I will never be a pitiful Indian who "gets rich" only at certain times of the month or year. My money is old and more established. It has Cut Bank John's life and blood stamped on it. I like that.
In the soul of every man is a voice from the heart, filled with love and hate, and a deeper voice from the mind seeking purpose in this life. And the body fights to keep it under control. Often, none of it makes much sense, yet the soul continues to struggle. If the soul didn't struggle, there would only be despair. Much more than all of this, I believe Napi created us and left us to survive in this world with a peculiar sense of humor and incredible strength. He loved us and will never give us more than we can handle, but he will always challenge us to become stronger. All of us struggle, but only a very few of us become stronger. It's strange: we choke on our first breath of life and then choke again on our last breath of life. It's the time in between that is important. That is when we struggle to live as much of this life as we dare before the last breath carries each of us to the Sand Hills. It really lasts only a few moments.
I am not finished with this life, and it is not done with me. Long ago I left the Blackfeet reservation because it was strangling both me and most of my family. There was not enough there. I refused to live a life of poverty, ugliness, and ignorance. That decision was made before I entered school. I don't advise others to walk in my footsteps; my life is not a pattern for anyone else. I still have a lot of life to live, and I am ready.
I have the greatest family in the world. That is true. My brothers are all dead, but who they were is more alive inside me than when they were living. All of them were tall, strong, handsome, and great outdoorsmen. I am proud of that. They knew how to hunt, fish, fight, and dress up for a Saturday night dance. I looked up to every one of them. They also showed me the greatest love possible: that quiet, beautiful understanding shared by brothers. This world did not let my twin brother live, and that has ruined more of my life than I could ever imagine. When he died, half of me also died. And that has kept me incomplete. When I die, he and I will finally become one again. It has to be that way, or none of this has been worth the struggle. Anyway, he died, and I lived, and I hate it but can do nothing about it, except struggle even harder to get closer to him once again. I know he is somewhere on top of a mountain waiting for me to get there. My sisters are hard to understand. They have always been tough, selfish women, and that is probably what has kept them alive. I have learned to accept them as they are and still try to be a part of their lives, not a major part, but a part. They are lucky to have me for a brother.
My mother is the greatest person I have ever known. Her life was hard, a real struggle. She had to raise seven children and hold a marriage together with an alcoholic husband. She never knew poetry in her life, but she was more beautiful than any poem I have ever read. Living alone has forced me to confront the real person inside me and know him as someone greater than the one I show most people. I have nothing to say about my father other than his name was Jack Hirst.
And now I have run out of stories and will end with the only true words I know—this world did not let my twin brother live, and that has ruined more of my life than I could ever imagine.
wind chimes in the dark
each tiny bell explodes
one endless shower of silver darts
his sleep relentlessly
its sorry lament and confession
after the flush of cool breeze
behind the recently-closed door
not the fear locked inside you
dead in the grave
not the memory of fighting you
back into my life
not the pain of forgetting you
which I’ll never do
not even you!
me watching the boy inside us hurt again!
When he died, half of me also died. When I die, he and I will finally become one again. It has to be that way, or none of this has been worth the struggle. Just before he died I grabbed his faint heartbeat and tucked it into a corner of mine. We were only three years old. There was no reason to celebrate a birthday after that.
One old man sits closer to the fire, peeling the flesh of this life, casting it into the flames, until the bones reveal what is left, a sweet incense of purpose and doubt, atop the mountain, complete inside the heart of the other lost child. Soogapi!