Chief Totopotamoi, 1654

by Karenne Wood

Karenne Wood

after Miller Williams

This is to say we continued. As though continuing changed us.
As though continuing brought happiness as we had known.
On a dry field without cover, his skin blistered raw in the sun.
Not one among us came, as though he had no relations.
What did we say to our brother? How could we leave him alone
while soldiers guarded his corpse as though precious to them?
One of the women, in darkness, crept to the field where he died,
prayed for him, covered him up. Dust over what was not dust.
We would have ventured out with her if we had loved ourselves less.
We had to think of our children, and he was not coming back.
How could we live with the silence, live with our grief and our shame?
Death did not heal what he suffered. He was making demands.
We did not want him to be there, asking the question he asked us,
changing the sound of his name. He had embarrassed us.
This is the memory we carried, avoiding the thought that he remained
face down among the charred grasses, holding the earth with his hands.

Last updated November 22, 2022