Oct 302013

There’s a grand old ballad song called “The Three Ravens,” and a Scottish version of it known as “The Twa Corbies.” In each of these songs, ravens in a tree are discussing where they will scavenge their next breakfast. They talk of a brave knight who has been slain, but they cannot get to him because his hound and his hawk and his leman guard him. “The price of liberty is eternal vigilance,” as Thomas Paine is said to have said; the dead knight’s guardians fulfill this role. Tragically, at the end of his life, the last warrior against both the Mexican and American forces’ takeover of the American West died as a reservation-prisoner far from his home; his one regret was that he didn’t “fight to the last man.” For me, Geronimo has always possessed something of the strength of Hercules. He is firm in courage beyond the known. He is brave without an exit. In language, poetry is the inquisitor we cannot evade; the inquisitor whose scars are left on us in tattooed whorls of artistry. The creation of cultural earworms is a cruel and necessary task. Who, besides the poor social outcast of the penniless poet, will do it?

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