Saturday, April 04, 2009


The North American wilderness, 1754

Tu n'est pas encore mort, mon père,
said the Half King. "Thou art not yet dead, my father."
And while the young and awkward tall Virginian,
in his first command, looked on, stupefied,
the Half King took his tomahawk, opened that living head,
and washed his hands in the Frenchman's brains.

They had surprised the French at dawn,
a couple dozen, not yet dressed, stumbling out
of their tents. It was over quickly. Before he quite
understood, his Indian allies began
to kill the wounded; too late, he formed his troop
around the remaining prisoners, to protect them.

He never did like Indians, after that. He went on
to have a street named after him in every town
three thousand miles west of there;
the Half King succeeded all too well
in bringing the English and French to blows, and drowned
his people in a war he thought they could surf.

Ensign Jumonville, aged thirty-five,
what of him? Nothing. Nothing of him.
His fame is that his skull served as a washbasin,
what more do you need than that? And
the solemn young Virginian became my father,
haunting two bits with his toothache ever since.

Well, it was long ago, and far away.
What is it to us, if an Indian repudiated
his French father, and took an English one?
The lesson is only this, that no father's writ runs
farther than his son's red arm; Jumonville
sleeps there as well as anywhere.

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