close
Mineola, or, The Spirit of the War-Path: A Dramatic Eclogue by Douglas Thornton

Mineola, or, The Spirit of the War-Path: A Dramatic Eclogue by Douglas Thornton

Drama, Vol. 5.3, Sept. 2011

Scene:
An Indian Village (Council-House; Ceremonial Hill; A Wood Nearby; A River)
Time: Late Evening, Night, and Morning

Prologue

(An old warrior rises from a campfire where others are seated, and speaks)

Since we sit silent without tending word
Upon this fire, I ask I may accord
A story heard, that was once given me,
That happened in some vague eternity,
Where neither you nor I—and I so old—
Were yet then living when this first was told.
This silent silence that’s upon us come,
Within this feeble twilight’s former glum,
Has put me pondering this lonesome tale,
That if I share it not, or somehow fail
In this least part I’ve many times construed,
Well, ’tis not worse than feeling solitude;
And better is it telling this out loud
Than speaking inward as a thundercloud,
Which may do harm, as raise in me a storm,
That the winds of melancholy may form,
And turn all upon you this dreaded blow,
That I’d myself forgive myself to know,
And be left the same as he who I am,
Watak, the man of which a beaver’s dam
Has distended all his poorer feelings.
I refuse, then, to quiet these appealings;
But blame not me, it’s no happy story,
And when told it was in all its glory,
I took the trail that leads down the river
And plunged therein to myself invigor,
Thinking all these squaws and warriors thought,
And if I could examine this strange plot,
Which, and though it be, runs right through our blood,
Makes an old man wince for its ruthless mood.
Thus I speak what only men are after,
And these charms of living in a quiet pasture,
Where a wood surrounds, with no one’s laughter,
Are all but foolish if you cease to hope,
Or dare with just the slightest matters cope.
For, to be a man, one may lose his pride,
But not lose what his heart may yet confide,
So sit, sit here and hear this silence out,
And to your thoughts thereafter you may doubt.

Scene:
A wood near an Indian Village (late evening)

Enter:
Two women (Mineola and Nakakowa) gathering wood

Mineola:
See you how this dark world in silence be?
I think the evening awakes anxiousness
Just as the morning delays it: Hear you?
You may hear the birds, but they are far away;
They sing, but their songs are echoes, long, faint;
And yet they tell a truth, but it is scarce:
That we are far from ourselves when we’d be
The most intimate, and that our precious
Moments are thoughts too lazy to be felt—
And this, this, the worst sort of anxiousness!

Nakakowa:
And why?

Mineola:
Such times as this, when men are tired,
I am awake, but cannot act myself,
And being another, am an enemy
To myself who was a friend, and un-friend
The man who rises fresh to his passion.
I am wrong thus when I would be most right.

Nakakowa:
Then I would say to you, Mineola,
We would be better enemies than friends.

Mineola:
You think?

Nakakowa:
Every day starts my anxiousness
And I am glad, truly, to see its end;
And there are none, you say, who like to sleep
When another is waking.

Mineola:
Truly said:
For, the world sleeps when one’s heart is burning.
Anxiousness has kept me awake these five
Nights now, and tonight seems no different—
But even then you and I have never
Lived in such opposing directions.

Nakakowa:
Then it is we are far, far, from ourselves
And do not know each other.

Mineola:
If you say,
But I know you and you are anxious too.

Nakakowa:
If so, you are my enemy!

Mineola:
Ah, but
Then, what a day, I think my world would end!
But I admit, this evening tells me something,
And rather than easing to some soothing
Notion, I am constantly put on guard,
That neither may I relax in a friend’s
Company, nor by myself be content.
It is Mushkanatoa! Ever since
He boasted of war and left us to be
Lost in meditation, I’ve felt this way.
Listen there! That lonely cave-filled mountain
Must be dark by now, and thrall in windy message;
These foolish twigs we’d do to gather more
So as to keep our fires fulfilled tonight.

Nakakowa:
It seems you do expose my anxiousness:
You think he will descend tonight?

Mineola:
How not?
I’ve not slept so long to dull my senses;
But from the simple cavern of my eye,
I see that war cannot wait much longer.

Nakakowa:
Then it is you play the chief and lead war—
I think the same: war is imminent!
Know: our warriors, with my brave husband,
Have retired by those red foretelling clouds
Of early evening, gone with our faithful
Okufi down to the cleansing river.
I know not what high rumor did excite
This hasty movement, but these mosquitoes
Have too long been contending with the breeze:
They are blown in all directions, as such
The enemy, who must now be aware
Of some forthcoming subjection.

Mineola:
Our last
War was but small twigs with those dreaded men,
The Kittuwa, who thus have yet to see
The kettle of fury boil over.
We may but stew them once for treachery,
But never could their tender parts please yet,
Lest I, more rude, taking up my family bones,
Could make a broth some manitou could use
To salt the joys of their most precious fruits!
Then for a moment they would be as me,
Who does sample all but savors nothing!
What else could I here do? I cannot eat;
I cannot urge the exploits of a husband dead;
I cannot mend the scalp upon a headless child;
So, thus, I recount again and again
How for so long, against those self-same foes,
Every man was reduced to his woman;
And how we had to play our weakened part
And move, tribe and all, from our ancestral
Lands, leaving some of us in subjection,
Which I did ask, because my brave husband
And my child—a warrior child whose birth
Was like bitter war—stayed to fight, and fought:
But I was won over, and thus, I fled;
I slept, oh, when they were truly awake!
Had I stayed, had I stayed; to my husband
I always gave hope, he said; and my child—
Who loves not his mother?—Oh, had I stayed,
Had I stayed: Oh, what an ancient custom
To be lain with a dead husband alive,
That was justice!

Nakakowa:
Injustice recounts those deeds.

Mineola:
My only homage is to my family dead,
And now that we do set again to war,
I will keep my fire burning, burning long,
For all the nights I thought myself away
From bitter sleep! But tell me this, you said
Your husband goes to war; for what reason?
Do not tell me it is what I’m thinking.

Nakakowa:
If and maybe would not tell the other;
A heart as his dares not seek the answer,
But soon says ‘Do’ when the other says ‘Done.’
He searches, this is true, searches for doom,
For glory, till it finally says ‘Finished.’
He is as you now, I think: same morning,
Same evening, tries for sleep, then thinks again
To his brother; it even seems he takes
The better part of you and speaks with him.
But he did like your husband, nor did place
The fault upon the shoulders of their blame.
He is a warrior, and thus, he wars;
For all things have a certain connection,
And by the loss of your husband, he lost
Another brother, which twice come to truth,
He looks upon the only enemy
He can, and from wrath says he’s twice-removed
From any other.

Mineola:
I just hope for me
He does not feel it, as I was the cause
Of that dispute.

Nakakowa:
I think your husband still
Conceals you.

Mineola:
Oh, you name him thus as if you meant it!

Nakakowa:
Hush! There’s but one revenge and that is death,
And blackness does beget your eyes—Look fast!
What old man may be stirring out this way?

Mineola:
I’ve asked many nights for a manitou,
Good spirit, be it he?

(Enter Chimhok)

Chimhok:
Brave Warriors,
Brave Warriors, where are these men I call?

Nakakowa:
They’ve all went to water with Okufi;
They left this early evening.

Mineola:
There’s a noise.

Chimhok:
More than a noise there is a meaning raised!

Mineola:
Again. You do not hear, Nakakowa?

Nakakowa:
I hear, but it is no man, and therefore
I know not the way of animals.

Chimhok:
Beast?
I think not so, it is a warrior,
A war-chief, who speaks earth’s consenting groan;
He’s still upon the heights, and by this noise
Means to come down.

Mineola:
I must welcome him, then.
We may be idle in those times as such,
But when action calls we must be as much.
(Exit)

Nakakowa: (Aside)
She’s called him down, by this she calls for war.
(Exit; following)

Chimhok:
Brave Warriors, where are these men I call?
Brave Warriors, where are these men I call?
(Exit)

Scene:
The banks of a river (late evening) Enter: Warriors (Okakulli, Shinitoosak, Kunastola) upon the bank; then Medicine-man (Okufi); all looking eastward

Okufi:
Warriors, hear my words, hear what I speak:
In vigilance eve changes from its red
To darkest night, and here upon this bank
Your moistened vigor sheds without upon
Your skin, as low war-clouds self-delivered!
Raise above your eyes to this fleeting glow,
You seething warriors, and see the red
Of your success change to the blackened breeze
Of your enemy who awaits his death;
And see the fervor of my medicine,
Shone upon this flowing river, visit
Each and every one of you, in the forms
Of stars that quiver, alighting the breaths
That rain among us, like the words of our
Bravest brothers, who relay their exploits
When we are sleeping. Listen to them speak,
To tell of dreams which larger have their jests
Outside the range of human speaking, filled
By blood, bones, death, all that makes us human;
Yet somehow living outside itself, staves
Our minds by its monument, to towers
Buildings, the high degrees that Nature tests,
Giving us, in perfect inspiration,
Moments eternal, and these, honor’s mark.

Listen now, far upon us we may hear
The oath protested from the highest mount,
That you have won the war already, won
The honors and the scalps you talk about,
And all the gratitudes of this mission!
Feel you this, warriors, we have traveled
To the future: we may see the bodies
Broken, and the blood there lying ruthless,
And you men, standing, proud, left unvanquished.
You build up now your towers, you build up
Now your mountains, and back to them you call:
‘We are the victors, and the victors speak
These slaying words from consecrated mouths!’
And your brothers accept of you this gift
Eternal, which they back, have given me,
And it is this which I, led by several
Courses, have fondled from our mother’s breast.

Now, take of this dried root I hand to you,
A relic fetish from their fallen bones;
Chew upon it till its stores of bitter
Liquid work up in your face the meanest
Continuance, then, that sloshy poultice
Vomit from your mouth, and on your body
Rub it; then you shall see, after your water-bath,
Every weapon that may dare to fall
Upon you, will roll like water droplets
Off your back: thus warriors, do I protect you.

(Okakulli steps forward, chews the root, then spits it on himself; speaks)

Okakulli:
By this root that now does sting my inner
Vengeance, and wields within me all my newest pride,
I dress upon my outer sorrows, which
Tempering as the rains do into sands,
Re-sculpts my body fearless and immune
To all things settled and what I must do,
So that I may rain on the enemy’s
Lands, and fill his flowing rivers with blood.
(Plunges in the stream, then raises his arms eastward)

Okufi: (Aside)
I hope you mean that.

(Shinitoosak steps forward, chews the root, then spits it on himself; speaks)

Shinitoosak:
And I, barely from the wars of blunted
Arrows, which with my peers I played, and gained
Renown, chew this root, as I’ve chewed my blade
Many nights, waiting for the day I would
Engage the Kittuwa and show my force.
I spread this root upon my toughened skin,
To toughen thus my false experience,
And be as those, my bravest ancestors.
(Plunges in the stream, then raises his arms eastward)

(Kunastola steps forward, chews the root, then spits it on himself; speaks)

Kunastola:
From out my dreams construed forevermore,
I ask the better of my searching self,
That by this root may I be formed, as if
This root were as my bitter fears, to fight,
Turning that which I know I cannot do
Into that which I’d die to be done—

(Enter Chimhok; from a distance)

Chimhok:
Warriors, brave warriors, answer me!
War is proclaimed, the feast close upon us;
Warriors, brave warriors, answer me!
Ten large dogs are newly slain for feasting,
And their fearless meat asks for famished men;
Warriors, brave warriors, answer me!

Warriors:(all; raise the war-whoop, then)
Here, here, over here!

Chimhok:
Alas, men who speak not, weapons speaking!

Okufi:
Warriors, the future is upon us,
And a new past fades away: Go, accept
The fate this man does bestow upon you!
I knew he would come, thus I have no fear
To let you leave and partake of this feast
That war creates and nourishes you with.
It was our brother Mushkanatoa
Who was speaking to us from that high mount:
Thus, there is union with the manitous;
All is right, feast upon the dogs of war!

Chimhok:
Warriors, brave warriors, come with me!
Follow my steps upon this grassy mat,
These steps where the winds of victory sway;
Warriors, brave warriors, come with me!

(Exit warriors with Chimhok)

Scene:
A wood nearby the Indian village (late evening) Enter: Squaw and Drummer

Squaw:
I hear him, he is coming—beasts’ footsteps
Have not a rhythm as that: it’s a man!

Drummer:
Beware of the enemy; for, all men
Do sound the same.

Squaw:
Yet I doubt low men can sound like great men.

Drummer:
You speak as to speak of Okakulli;
Men are men, and it is merely footsteps;
But know this, squaw: all men carry themselves.

Squaw:
Who? All men do weigh themselves and this man
Must be light.

Drummer:
But one who weighs the feet, weighs not his head.

Squaw:
But he who thinks too much weighs every step
And, thus, gets nowhere.

Drummer:
Fear the man who steps without thinking!

Squaw:
Blind is the man who thinks without stepping!

Drummer:
You are too much, you know.

Squaw:
Because I weigh men’s lives by the great lengths
They travel?

Drummer:
No; because you are too heavy with things
That are weightless.

Squaw:
Then I must sit in someone’s favor!

Drummer:
There! They are much closer now, these footsteps.

Squaw:
Then you should stop drumming.

Drummer:
I am not to drum till I see the man.

Squaw:
Then you can’t much know his footsteps, can you?

Drummer:
Hear that!

Squaw:
Those feet do drum truer than you, I think.

Drummer:
Look ahead!

Squaw:
And face the music?

Drummer:
Mushkanatoa—there he is! (drums start)

Squaw: (running off)
He has arrived! He has arrived!

(Enter Mushkanatoa, covered in black ash)

Mushkanatoa:
And you see a man, brothers and sisters,
As one who’s taken the ethereal
Vines of our mother’s hair, and ascended
To the sky to nourish himself. Hear me!

(Enter Mineola, Nakakowa, others)

I have chewed the bits of my every force
And still stand to come among you, and speak;
For there is none as driven as me!
And if there meets in my mind the simple and great,
Of which all Nature, looking upon us
As the catalyst for her deeds to make,
Then I am one not risen fatally,
But step on with life, in the wake of war,
Assured that every deed I undertake
Shall have a fountain to give lasting life
To new things, and you may tell this to those
Who will follow me: assure he who doubts,
And take with you the vines that are the hairs
Of our mother, for so she braided them
That I could climb the airs of her meaning,
And in her world discover our high place!
Tie these in your hair, honor your mother!
Go, my brothers and sisters, and while
The sun sleeps we shall hold ceremony
And rejoice, for, when he wakes, is war.

(Mineola steps forward)

And you, so meek to come to me?

Mineola:
Great chief, Mushkanatoa, victory
Does hold a breath in your eyes wider than
A frightened deer may flash over these hills;
And I see in your brow a lofty hawk’s
Soaring wing: majesty was spoken by the gods!
Yet I, swelling with your masculine pose,
Dare ask to clean these empirical dirts
From the confident skin of your glowing body
And paint on you the studly shapes of war.
It is said vermilion from a widowed
Hand paints peace in the soul, for that battle
May be judged with the clearest eyes, and with
A widow’s touch, I dare to guild your face
If you may accept my artful burden.

Mushkanatoa:
I’ve been anointed by the rattlesnake,
And fierce I fought, but know not of this:
You are still a condemned woman?

Mineola:
The night,
At times, still recalls my papoose, and weeps,
And my husband, I fear, still burns in these
High stars, that my every bit of rest
Is subjected to the blackest points of my heart;
And if these deeps scars tell not afresh my weakness
I shall root myself with the dead and give
Up my hands, but to you I offer them
As my only revenge, so the enemy
May see that I still do his life demand.

Mushkanatoa:
Come with me to my wigwam and we shall
Talk with my wife.

(Exit Mushkanatoa and Mineola)

Nakakowa:
And I must go prepare for my husband:
War starts, and war is all that we must make;
But I’ve no revenge but the general
And stop there; for it is with his dark eye
That I shall see, see die the enemy;
And with this paint I lay upon his face
That one shall see me: honor your brother!
(Exit)

(Enter Okakulli)

Okakulli:
Wife? Squaw? Warrior? No one! Yet I hear
My brother, and the things I once ignored
Come quicker, and make a man of a man
Who wasn’t: I do hear, and listen, brother,
You shall lead me in this war, and put place
To my tomahawk, as fear does the mind.
Mineola and a brother; they, them,
Those, and combined, so combined destruction.
She, he, and she forever nothing—lust!
It, it, yet something was, but nothing more,
Yet nothing still lingers into something:
He and she were they, it was those, and so
Only one can account for them, alive,
That I know, and so endless proof—something!
From here on out the movements of my outward parts
Shall be what the warrior’s demeanor
Favors and withholds, to show what honor
I hold to my tribe, while the rests for me,
Acting within what without has lost pride.
In times of war, all must war or be lost,
If not, we live not, but not all who fight
Must war, but only keep the idea,
And, so, fight many times, win more than one.
To war, to war, I cry, and I shall war
And fight with whom I must! Yet I must be
Quickly painted: the council-house now fills
With men and women—the warriors’ feast
And the manitou’s testament.
(Exit)

Scene:
The council house; a large birchen box at one end Enter: Warriors and squaws all around; Kunastola and Chimhok speak

Kunastola:
I’m too young to know superior ways,
But what is that box there for?

Chimhok:
To call forth,
Young man, the truth which Mushkanatoa
Has made on his demand.

Kunastola:
I’m set for war;
But what, for my steady resolution,
May this birchen box do?

Chimhok:
So many things,
But you are young, wait yet, and you will hear
That I shall speak into it when ready,
When great Okufi calls the spirit forth.

Kunastola:
I fear to know what manitou he calls;
Mine has been to me as of late unkind.

Chimhok:
And you are set for war, are you?
You sound as Okakulli speaks.

Kunastola:
I speak
As he is brave, but I must act as sure
As in a thicket a field lark may fly!
For I chanced on a simple plan to win
My manitou over.

Chimhok:
And what is that?

Kunastola:
I did pass Mineola not long since
Coming from the chief’s, and spying some paint
Upon her hand—that paint and that part which
Combine for greatness—paid her a quick word,
And seeing that she was troubled, made pains
With myself as if I did feel for her,
And in playing my good intention,
Took up her hand—that red paint still clutching—
And rubbing it with all my heart and soul,
Made, against her knowing, her lesser will
Paint me, so that I think I feel a chief.

Chimhok:
You are attended in severe ways, my young man.
But listen now, Mushkanatoa speaks.

(Mushkanatoa rises to speak)

Mushkanatoa:
Hear me all: we call upon us tonight
The Great Turtle to bear this truth I made.
We are ready, Okufi; present him!

(Enter Okufi from the far-side of the council-house, wearing only a breech-cloth; he opens the birchen box and climbs in, closing himself inside; all look on with awe)

Kunastola:
Yes, I think I do remember spying
This ceremony when little—what’s that!
(The box shakes violently; loud shrieks resound from within)
I do not remember any of this!

Chimhok:
They are evil spirits he must affront.

(From inside the box):
No! No! Out! Close your mouth! Away! Away!

Kunastola:
And I with no protection!

Chimhok:
Be patient,
He must win them over: you are painted.

Kunastola:
This sweat un-tames it from my skin—it’s lost!
The manitou steals it from me again!

(From inside the box):
Fury! War! Fire! Stop! Away! Away!

Kunastola:
We are lost! I am lost! They are on me!

Chimhok:
Patience, he is winning, look.
(The box stops shaking; all is silent)

Kunastola:
I do not trust it; silence is ambush!

The Great Turtle: (from inside the box)
To this council you have called me
For great questioning,
But I see your heads now falling,
While I yet decree.
What is it that should weigh your mind
But this coming war?
Your thoughts to me you may implore
Then your answer find.

Chimhok: (rises; speaks into the box)
Great Turtle, be it you who lives within
And may tell the truths our thoughts may worry?

The Great Turtle:
He who asks to me shall never worry,
I am the Great Turtle, and gentle.

Chimhok:
Then it’s come this night, Mushkanatoa
Has told us to follow him into war
And we will be honored. The enemy
Sleeps, he says, and they shan’t know our coming:
Are we, then, Great Turtle, to follow him
Or live quiet?

(The box shakes violently again)

(From inside the box):
War! Revenge! Out! Stay away! Stay away!

Kunastola:
This cannot be good: I am lost! I must
Fly to the forest! Manitou, hear me!

Chimhok:
Be not scared, all things do steal off the heels
Of evil: abide to this and accept!

Kunastola:
For I am too young, I know not to war:
I am lost, lost!
(Exits screaming)

(From inside the box):
Evil! Fury! War! Out! Away! Away!

The Great Turtle: (from inside the box)
To this council again I’ve come
With the words you’ve sought.
A moment last I was aloft
At your rival’s home.
I trod through their most feeble town
Without fear at all;
And even did I dare to call
He whom they do crown.
But all were sleeping, as was said,
No one moved about;
I say this war will be a rout,
All seem to be dead.

Chimhok:
We give you our praise Great Turtle!

All:
Thank you, Great Turtle!

(The box shakes violently again, but then Okufi comes crawling out, beaten, sweating, and is carried off by some squaws to his wigwam)

Mushkanatoa: (rises)
Now, men, you do hear what my soul does speak!
Feast upon these dogs, and in my hunger
I shall watch you eat.

(Enter Nakakowa with a kettle of dog meat, serving warriors [Chimhok], then together Shinitoosak and Okakulli [her husband])

Okakulli:
Nakakowa, come, who did paint the chief
So well? Speak as a feather.

Nakakowa:
Know, husband,
It was that talked-on squaw Mineola.

Okakulli:
Tell me why?

Nakakowa:
Why speaks not the truest word,
But she has spoke no lie, and told the chief
Her hard widowed hand would bring in battle greatness
If she could paint anew his war-dress, which,
Being done, there you see.

Okakulli:
He looks as blue-jays sing.

Nakakowa:
I heard she mixed
The paint with tears, and after, weeping, gave
Some shy excuse that it was tradition,
Saying, as if she were unaffected,
‘If I could war!’

Okakulli:
We’ll take up her revenge!
Let all know as well.
(Nakakowa passes the word)

Shinitoosak: (aside)
Those who incite themselves are forced to do.

Okakulli:
Where is she?

Nakakowa:
In the woods, the dirt, the sky:
She dare not celebrate, nor would she eat,
She may have fasted longer than the chief.

Okakulli: (aside to Nakakowa)
This is fate, Nakakowa; don’t you think?

Nakakowa: (aside to Okakulli)
We should not over-think fate but take it.

Okakulli: (aloud)
Tell her, then, I will bring three scalps for her.

Shinitoosak: (aside)
You’d be brave for the scalp of her husband.
Now you are a blue-jay, who speaks and speaks,
But never does.

Nakakowa:
And me?

Okakulli:
My oath to return. I still mourn
The great man that was her husband: such men,
Though never chief, impose more law by their own feats
Than ever could our tribes war-dance and song;
And though he killed my brother, I forgave
Him long ago: the crime has become ours.

Shinitoosak:
You do sweat merely saying those words.
(aside) For truth or for falsity, I do not know,
But know you weak when true and false when brave.

Okakulli:
I speak anew because I’ve found spirit
In my breath: my brother leads me to war!

Shinitoosak:
You speak as if unique, but I too have
A spirit that urges me: listen close.
That same Mineola was yet a wife
And a mother, and on the latter part
Had a son whom she always called ‘papoose.’
He was strong, and brave, but too old to be
Called as such, you see, and I, being next
To him, though never superior, found
It one day to gather round all the boys
Such to deceive his highness and make him
Weak in game, so that I, for once, would win.
Thus I told them all we would start our game—
It was a mock war as we always played—
Then, when in position, we, from afar
Would call upon him that same ‘papoose,’
And did handle their parts with majesty,
And even I, who screamed above the rest.
But ‘papoose’, running towards that excess
Struck it to the ground and cut off my ear!
Looking at us all, but none, said, ‘I’d eat
This ear but the taste would make me coward,
But he who puts his bravest step out now
I’ll eat his heart!’ Then threw the ear away
And walked off.

Okakulli:
A man much braver than you!

Shinitoosak:
If an ear has a soul, I lost heart then;
But this, as you, speaks of high redemption.
(aside) And I, forget not, by my word, am much
Braver than you.

Okakulli:
We are both on the path to other ways.

Shinitoosak:
I may not evince him personally,
But I shall outlive his short legacy.
(aside) And, unlike you, am not scared of revenge.

Okakulli:
If legacies could live we’d do them wrong.

Shinitoosak:
But wrong neither to uptake their pride.

Okakulli:
True,
So you convince me. If we weren’t as hard
We could not war, nor as much ambitious
Could not live.
(They finish eating)

Mushkanatoa: (rises)
Your bowls are placed down, the feast is finished.
Know, as I watched you devour this meat
I was fulfilled and am hungry no more.
You have thus risen in me a passion
That will serve for many days: for, tonight
I do not break my fast, weakness restores
A purity better than the purest meat
Of a whitened deer. We can’t and mustn’t take
What even her rarest nature offers
If we are not ready; we must exhaust
Our normal ways if ever to be great
For that we are not guided by an unselect
Or something that may weigh our feelings base.
Thus, ’tis no time for we to be against
Ourselves, nor our brothers, but must to each
Uplift them past these wide realms of seeing
And this loneliness of touching, and let
The white deer roam in and out of our ways
So that again we may see, and again
We may know, again we may touch, again
We may feel and thus never once forget
The happiness that bounds us to the all:
This has led us through our wars to the peace
We now find, and turns us into true men,
And with this again we go to war.

(Warriors raise the war-whoop)

Now let’s off, if every man is satisfied:
There lies upon the yonder hill a post,
And there we will reside tonight in dance
And song, to make ourselves worthy for fight
If we aren’t already enough. Chimhok,
May you lead us to this stair of honor,
As you are old, and risen to this height
So many times our feet may yet deface
That worn-down grass if not you went before.

Chimhok: (rises)
I have taken scalps innumerable
And my body, burdened with countless scars,
Does, alas, myself defend; but so long
Has my swiftest hand been knotted aghast
With those victories, that my mind still wars
Though my body holds as if the enemy runs,
And I am left as but a memory.
But if this shall urge you on, then I will lead:
Warriors, brave warriors, follow me!

(Exit all behind Chimhok)

Scene:
A wood close to the ceremonial hill (night)

(Enter Mineola [alone])

Mineola:
I have no faith but what this darkness throws,
And I within it am but lost to sight,
Nor may I tear, or compass these echoes
With the vast wielding of this fallen night!
Has it been I’ve been swallowed by the snake
Or frog, and must relive what I cannot
Live with life; am I subjected by some
Sinking bog, that may engulf me without
Engulfing strife? Now I know, I know why
The animals brought amongst men disease:
For not that they could not compete with us—
All by what kills the animal are subjected
By it the same—but that they saw revenge
Was man’s great weakness; for it, in killing
Equal numbers, subjects the better half
By leaving her in darkness, which, called fear,
Demands a greater justice, and by this
Gets but twice in return obedience
And kindness. Therefore I ask, suspended
Between man and animal, earth and sky,
Evening and morning, shall I be revenged,
Or let my vengeance, through fear, live in death
And worry? In this I make my disease,
But in this, too, I make my liberty!
All things, if they could be free, would not want,
But yet to live normally we demand
This freedom; for with each do we intend
Our looks hardly, scorn each for the other,
And turn from kindness so as to be not sorry.
To this, I raise myself to the Indian:
I ask for freedom, then, from this forest,
Be bounded to what I cannot deny,
To sing the rhythms of that chorus
That has—and might it always—scorned my eye,
A most potent and wonderful power,
Manitou, I ask it one last time.

For it is the last time for war, it seems;
Anger is not eternal, and so soon,
I think, escape from it would hold some truth:
But what truth can so define angers deep?—
I must hold on, I’ve fasted seven days,
And thus I journey in the depths of fate:
Neither man nor woman am I, but am
As the drifting clouds early morning makes,
Touching all things, as all I touch is tears,
Some substance our fabled monsters slather
From their jaws, lathered with impotent years
Touch me not, hope, I’m condemned to poison;
All I touch is wrong if revenge remains
Unproven; thus, manitou, evilness
Befall, and waste your high torments upon
This lower passion: without you, revenge
Would turn to nothing!
—But may it? Shall words
Ask a baser thing from something sacred?
By asking all, or what does please our mood,
Before what may we stand in awe, to please
That which is only good, our decisions?
Enough, I do abuse myself; the past
Is gone. Farewell husband, farewell papoose;
I can save you not if I save my soul,
But if, to save you, I’d give up my hope.
(A rustle in the branches above her)
Come forth who it be, I live not by fear.
(More rustling)
A shadow my feelings, darkness for all.

Night Bird: (from the branches)
I see you, you, you.

Mineola:
See me not, but make me see you.

Night Bird:
On the branch up there,
On the branch up there.

Mineola:
I see faintly your figure is false. Yet
You speak, I dare, as night birds talk, speaking
Sounds that no lesser ear may comprehend.

Night Bird:
Do you not hear me?
Do you not hear me?

Mineola:
But—I do, I do! The manitou speaks!

Night Bird:
Then you know, know, know,
I sing for you, you.

Mineola:
Then it is, I shall hear your words.

Night Bird:
I sing for you, you.

Mineola:
You sing, and yet I know not to listen,
Or if, cannot be assured I’m ready:
These ears have not so long been accustomed.
I fear to hear I would only refuse,
Yet refuse to what has not been listened.
I am scared, and doubt what I was asking—
So is hope. Thus, night bird, sing me a song.

Night Bird:
Words fall as fast, fast,
As hearts do mend, mend;
But this last, last, last,
Speaks no end, end, end
.

Mineola:
Then I am followed by that which I tried
To chase: thus, it is, and will be, savage revenge,
And my love as a love of little faith
If not against the Kittuwa I do
My body send. A joy to sacrifice
If I may live what’s past and not again
Look at life. Speak, prophet; I live remorse.

Night Bird:
Do doubt no more, more,
I sing, sing, sing, sing,
One ancient lore, lore,
Its truth I bring, bring.

Mineola:
Truth? Upon my own I am fooled. But you
May tell me this and I will see it through.

Night Bird:
Around a post, post,
The warriors sing,
They yell and boast, boast,
Do the same thing, thing.

Strike it once, once, once,
With this my feather,
Revenge it blunts, blunts,
But war endeavor.

(A feather from the tree falls at her feet; she picks it up)

Mineola:
Yet I think a bird could sing no sweeter,
Though still sings what no ear could comprehend.

Night Bird:
I sing for you, you.

Mineola:
And no other I’d dare to hear your song.

Night Bird:
Hear me no more, more,
The echoes speak, speak,
Go forth, for, for, for,
What you seek, seek, seek.
(Exit Night Bird)

Mineola: (listening still)
It starts! Now I hear on the close-by hill
The warring drum, and the warriors blast
About their deeds; yet I must speak my own
And hope that suffices.

(Enter Nakakowa)

Nakakowa:
Mineola, is that you? You hide still?

Mineola:
I am, and call me such, I hide no more.

Nakakowa:
There sounds a night bird here.

Mineola:
I hear nothing.

Nakakowa:
Neither could you, our ears are not attune.

Mineola:
How so?

Nakakowa:
They only speak for one who hears.

Mineola:
I don’t understand.

Nakakowa:
It’s like that feather
You hold—but it is a strange feather, no?
Unless the dark fools me. How have you it?

Mineola:
It was always mine, and by this special
Night, I did bring it out to dream with.

Nakakowa:
Dream?
And where has it taken you?

Mineola:
Well that’s why
We dream, isn’t it? To know not where we go.

Nakakowa:
That’s a curious feather.

Mineola:
For my heart.

Nakakowa: (aside)
She is a bird!—Anyway, that feather
You hold, well, I say it’s like the night bird
When he speaks; for one who hears, thinks she flies,
But has not the plume for mounting so high—
One hears what she wants, and rarely listens
To what she hears.

Mineola:
Like this we learn nothing—

Nakakowa:
When nothing says.

Mineola:
What would you say for she who understands
The night bird?

Nakakowa:
That she faces something, nor
Can she understand it.

Mineola:
And the night bird?

Nakakowa:
If heard and listened, understanding.

Mineola: (aside)
Then it is I’m smart to my decision.

Nakakowa:
Did you hear a night bird?

Mineola:
Oh, little things!—
Why have you left that manly spectacle?

Nakakowa:
Ever since the feast I have searched you out.

Mineola:
I hide not, but need no vain attention;
But leave, for I am leaving now.

Nakakowa:
And where?

Mineola:
To fetch some water.

Nakakowa:
Alone?

Mineola:
Just as well.
What we cannot do for ourselves cannot
Be done for others, thus I test myself.

Nakakowa:
But you test nothing if you test in vain,
And the moon says the greater purpose be
Not water.

Mineola:
Be it so, the moon is shy
And scatters quickly when touching water,
And, thus, cannot tell the stability of life.

Nakakowa:
Then walk you to water by this shy moon
You may leave the stable part of my words
And bathe in instability.

Mineola:
You may
Quickly say and I shall quickly listen.

Nakakowa:
My husband dares to revenge you, and claims
Three scalps he’ll bring back out of the friendship
He held for your husband.

Mineola:
And my papoose?

Nakakowa:
Said Shinitoosak he’ll claim one for him,
After much urging—he was but second.

Mineola:
Thus, my worries are as my family.
Might you then meet me down by the river?

Nakakowa:
Still?

Mineola:
It seems, thus, the moon is shy no more.
May you not go ahead? I’d like to thank
The spirits.

Nakakowa:
I’ll go get your gourds.
(aside) So set, we may speak less but do act more.
(Exit)

Mineola: (looking up at a branch)
Oh, grave thing, you tell me to seek, alas!
Now revenge is twice and I twice-removed
From hope, and all but by a feather’s touch.
How should I defy truth now? How? Should I
Dispense with all my beliefs and be fooled,
Or, knowing foolish truth, follow its worth?
What does either beget or either prove?
Sorrow for one, anxiousness another.
How if I were as light to touch the air,
Might I breech over this inhuman height
Too high for my soul to spare, and shed off
This base and low human-tried ambition!
But yet, so I be feathered by the air
Above, I have the right to glide on love
Undying, which being empty, asks not
The world for a vast return, but taking
One into its nest, feeds her with the food
Of another’s taste; and with this she grows
Strong, strong enough for that enduring test,
That makes one step a leap, a leap a bird
Myself, and I, flying, a soul too far
From help. Thus bad decisions must not breed
Another, and exile themselves! So bird,
I am, and must feign me, a warrior,
And step into the warrior’s dark nest,
Then fly, to let this haggard body rest.
(A twig cracks close by)
Who’s there?

(From the bush):
One drawn by the voices he seeks.

Mineola:
Who’s there? Be you the Kittuwa, come forth,
I am for you.

(From the bush):
He’s a false warrior.

Mineola:
A name?

(From the bush):
Kunastola.

Mineola:
And I’m Mineola:
We are friends?

Kunastola: (comes forth)
Maybe, but I must tell you,
You’ve been used.

Mineola:
If she cares not, she is done
Justice. What do you mean?

Kunastola:
For I am he
Who did comfort you this night, but only
To steal the paint from off your hand. I heard
What vermilion from such a hand would do.

Mineola:
I do remember, but your words were real.

Kunastola:
We’d be all shapes, all voices, to deceive.

Mineola:
I then have used you, I fear. My hand’s naught
To make men in battle great, but women,
And I am she, and am of that saying
The first and last word, and in the middle
Lie.

Kunastola:
If she does not war, and all is fake,
Why did you paint the chief: what is it for?

Mineola:
The fight, my son; if we may recognize
A friend when we do fight each other, then
It is a comfort: go not then to war
If you were so disposed, or you may share
In that vision I did myself create.

Kunastola:
I must search a manitou.

Mineola:
Then find him—
I must be alone: You’re going to the dance?

Kunastola:
No.

Mineola:
And neither I, but let’s part.
(Exit both; separate ways)

Scene:
The ceremonial hill (night) Enter: Drummer (drumming); warriors (chanting and dancing) in a circle around the post; pine knots burning all around

Warriors: (all)
We see no more the Kittuwa
We see no more the Kittuwa
The Kittuwa are dead
The Kittuwa are dead

We raised up high the red war-club
We raised up high the red war-club
And dropped it on their head
And dropped it on their head

From their low heads we tore the scalp
From their low heads we tore the scalp
And cut up their dead parts
And cut up their dead parts

Great Manitou do this for us
Great Manitou do this for us
We offer you their hearts
We offer you their hearts

(Shinitoosak jumps forward into the circle with tomahawk drawn; crouching in a fighting position; creeping around the post)

Shinitoosak:
I’m no man weaker than the rest of you,
But this slight body has not run its trial,
And must content himself with future deeds,
Lest that future deed will him defile. Yet
Not by hand, or the mad enemy’s oath,
Were my great fathers fled to other lands,
But were as the mounds that their hands rose up,
And lofty bred the heights where I do stand.
Thus, my shadow cast, seeks a further south
Than these new lands do show us they extend,
And with my breast, more than beating loud,
I range on you this story of my kin.

A man I’ve heard from my extended line,
Much truer in wars than us of late,
Was taken from an ambush left alive,
And given over by a certain chief
To some men for torture, for to appease
This enduring war that is our struggle,
To, alas, break us, and make of this fight
Eternal sleep; but all those sickest things
A mind disdained relates, his composure
Neither bent to or flinched a certain way,
And he did gain in strength, though his body
By each blow was weakened, till he couldn’t stand,
And tamed these men of their rising vigor.
So did the man being beaten, torture,
But left to chance naught less than death to bring,
And urged those men their angers to achieve,
Entangling him around a wooden stake,
Be-spread about with logs soon charred with flame,
And rejoiced, as the skin tore from his knees.
Yet a life of pain has an ear and throat,
And lifting his voice he was heard to say:
‘My death is near, but I fear not the imminent,
And look upon you as the dogs I slaved,
Who never bark, and wrap up under them
Their all-mighty tails, impotent to show
Who they truly are: beasts to be eaten.
Yet I may show you how true men can bark,
If from these flames you may my heart receive,
That I should sing my death song, and finished,
Ever learn you the name of Mekutha.’

The enemy, astonished by his proud
Nobility, at once did douse the fire,
Untied him, then waited for his deadly
Song. When all was silent, he started loud:
‘Oh, death, for death is greater now than me,
But I was as if greater once than you,
Yet yielding, to you I offer this breath
And inhale this dark that I seem to set.’
And with the glare of some glorious eye
That would change all the features in one’s face,
His past before him, set in mythic heights,
Spread full across the valleys and the glades,
And all who sat around and heard his words.
For each deed he sang, to each man there round,
Cursed by a look of surmounting horror,
Waylaid their ears, as from their hearts were bled
Those memories of their relatives killed
In war, tortured upon the stake, and fed
Unto the dogs. For there, amongst them all,
Mekutha stood and spit upon these deaths!
And as he looked around, and saw these men
As stunned, forget their bravely tomahawks
That hung amongst their drooping hands, he rose
Again, as if to speak some greater deed
Within his song, whereon all, now resting
With dumbfounded stares, perceived, paralyzed
By remorse, hung their heads that they this last
Would never know. Was it then Mekutha,
In faceless rage, dashed upon the closest
Man him found, wrapped his tomahawk with both
Drooping hands and his, and drove it to that
Head, and fled as fast to those darkest woods.
Some moons had passed and he arrived back home,
And told this story that I tell to you.
For he, my ancestor, gives heart to fight,
And his ancient deeds shall make my arms light.

(strikes the post and rejoins the warriors in dance)

Warriors: (all)
We see no more the Kittuwa
We see no more the Kittuwa

The Kittuwa are dead

The Kittuwa are dead

Great Manitou do this for us
Great Manitou do this for us
We offer you their hearts
We offer you their hearts

(Mushkanatoa jumps forward into the circle with tomahawk drawn; crouching in a fighting position; creeping around the post)

Mushkanatoa:
When but a little boy, I took a scalp
From some invading men, some enemy
Our warriors repulsed with speed and fled,
And he, being one who was left behind,
I saw his body, chopped three different
Ways, one upon his thigh twisting inward,
One upon his frail shoulder drooping down,
And one on his chest made a breathing sound,
Which I listened, and heard his spirit say:
‘He who stands over me now, know of this,
My last breath, which I had hoped would expire
Among my people: hear this, I led men
Less brave, and made them braver in battle,
And you, if you respect my wish, will be
Brave the same. Take this my dead and drooping
Arm, and here, my twisted and broken leg,
And cut them off, burden them on your back,
And bear them to that highest rock you see!
But do not yet try to take my hanging
Scalp, for though you desire it, you must
Please my last wish, nor will the returning
Warriors take it, if you do this last
Deed. Thus, when you’ve climbed that highest rock seen,
Say: “Dadoonleksi, I have a gift here!”
Then leave my arm and leg and walk away!’

The words stopped, no breathing was heard again,
Yet I knew his spirit had spoke no lie,
As I always heard my father say: “Go
Not to that high rock without arm or leg!”—
But then the meaning I knew not. So with
His tomahawk, I detached his wounded
Limbs, threw them on my back and soon began
That trail that leads unto the highest rock.
Yet, leaving the town, our warriors came
Back in, carrying scalps, and asking all
If any more had been seen, and was sure
They’d find that one-armed, one-legged body soon.
I hurried up the trail, stood on the rock
With arm and leg, and pronounced those same words
That he had said, then swift, I walked away.
Returning to the town, I found the scalp
Still there, and surprised, took his tomahawk
To his head, and peeled his lingering thoughts
One by one away from death—took his scalp!
But when I did, a crane went flying through
The air with that same arm and leg. ’Tis why,
To this day, that great bird has limbs so big.
So it is, as I still carry along
With me this scalp, as sure as the crane stands
On the lake’s edge, stupefying the fish
That slow linger about, I catch all men
That come within my reach professing war—
I stand as he whom he is scared to rise before!

(strikes the post and rejoins the warriors in dance)

Warriors: (all)
We raised up high the red war-club
We raised up high the red war-club
And dropped it on their head
And dropped it on their head

Great Manitou do this for us
Great Manitou do this for us
We offer you their hearts
We offer you their hearts

(Okakulli jumps forward into the circle with tomahawk drawn; crouching in a fighting position; creeping around the post)

Okakulli:
Passing war has taught me my arms be tough,
And the enemy who’s lain at my feet,
Has guided more than once my warring ways,
That I stand undefeated, and can speak
Of men that have risen up in my face,
And beaten, hold them in my memory.
For a moment again they are alive
And pass me one by one, neither haunting
Nor thirsty for my stale blood to run,
But each holds a pipe, and each passing by
Smokes with me, then they tell me of their thoughts
When battle made our eyes first meet. One says:
‘I stood upon a rock to see where battle stood,
And saw my men screaming loud and hacking
Free, then you, maybe thinking the same thing,
Climbed up to a spot I thought was air, so
High did your ambition breed, that seeing
Me, you knew already my life was low,
And could have, without loss of pride, me spared;
But when the hawk looks out, he neither spares
The dove; and so your arms did slice through men
As wings may scatter a current of air,
And plunged quick down upon me.’

(strikes the post)

       Another
Tells me: ‘We left the woods victorious,
And took fresh scalps and all our wounded home,
But as the night did fall, and spun around
Our camp a thick and hard-of-seeing fog,
I felt as we were by some animal
Tracked, and his manly and pursuing breaths
Reached out before him, as he blew them out,
Foretelling of his coming path. I thought
I saw, against the evening sky twilight,
A panther stretch his limbs across from star
To star, as if in hot, contested chase,
And when I called up all the band to see
This stout and fast phenomenon, alas,
I said, “Look there,” and one expansive hand
Grabbed me by the hair, turning all to night.

(strikes the post)

There are others who say they saw me not,
But only heard the bullfrog, or snake pass
Slowly by; for just before my footsteps
Death does track—and now I hear the night bird
Tell of someone’s hand that shall raise his wrath
And bring it down to revenge his brother;
And as I speak my hand shakes to agree,
For, know my name, I am Okakulli.

(strikes the post and rejoins the warriors in dance)

Warriors: (all)
From their low heads we tore the scalp
From their low heads we tore the scalp
And cut up their dead parts
And cut up their dead parts

Great Manitou do this for us
Great Manitou do this for us
We offer you their hearts
We offer you their hearts

(Mineola [disguised and painted as a warrior] jumps into the circle, solemn, unaffected by the song; passing here and there before the post; waving the feather in front of it)

Mineola:
I once knew a squaw who tried to sing
The note of every bird her eyes had seen,
Yet, looking upon one, she let it sing,
Because of all the noises she could make,
She thought this one was better off alone,
And dared not tempt it by her lonely words;
But her solemn voice did attract the bird,
It came unto her singing loud its song,
And before she knew, its beautiful curse
Had wrapped her round, that she must fly withal.
This feather she took, as the one it gave,
Because her words had such a little faith,
And now it makes her think of all the songs,
All the notes, all the words she used to make,
Meant nothing to the throat that keeps her heart,
If words were not as wings that float afar.
So she learns, by holding this small feather,
That if she sing as any singing bird,
Then she is a bird, and has been set free,
And instead of being of this small world,
Changes her voice and look, and flies aloft,
To realms where all her differences are solved.
When you hear a bird to sing, think of her,
And maybe, alone, if you have a word
For her, that is as deep and as lonely
As she once sang, she will return, and then,
And only then, you’ll see her face to face.
It is for her, then, that I strike this post.

(touches the post with the feather and rejoins the warriors in dance)

Warriors: (all)
Great Manitou do this for us
Great Manitou do this for us
We offer you their hearts

We offer you their hearts

Great Manitou do this for us
Great Manitou do this for us
We offer you their hearts
We offer you their hearts

(Exit singing)

Scene:
The council-house (morning) Enter: Chimhok; Nakakowa; Squaw; Drummer; cheering and yelling; the warriors (Okakulli, Shinitoosak) and the war-chief (Mushkanatoa) leaving for the war-path

Chimhok:
Bold in fight, and life hereafter!

Squaw:
Walk upon the enemy’s head!

Drummer:
Measure your steps and you’ll measure them home!

(Okakulli; with Nakakowa [aside])

Okakulli:
Have you seen her since sun-up?

Nakakowa:
She does lurk!

Okakulli:
Tell me, then, you told her I would venge her?

Nakakowa:
I did give her the details of your flight
And now she dreams with feathers.

Okakulli:
Then all’s right.
But tell me, she knows?

Nakakowa:
Yes.

Okakulli:
Then she should know
To go not, is not better than dying
In the fight, and will go. I shall return
In honor, then, wife.

Nakakowa:
So I, then, honored. (Exit all)

(Enter Mineola; disguised as a warrior)

Mineola:
Here from I fly this tribal ground, at last,
No more, to live in the grounds where they lie,
From where I should never have fled.—I am
The wolf who lurks, disbanded from the pack,
Yet spotting the prey, shows herself to fight,
Gaining what feeble honor remains.
(Exit)

Scene:
The council house (two dark moons later)

(Enter
Squaw and Drummer; the warriors [Okakulli] and the war-chief [Mushkanatoa] call the war-whoop from a distance)

Drummer:
That is a familiar sound.

Squaw:
It has been long enough, I think.

Drummer:
There! They echo fast and sing on the verge
Of something.

Squaw:
Such a sound and such efficient words may
Only mean victory.

Drummer:
With that I agree; there’s life and not death!

Squaw:
Then we are reconciled!

Drummer:
Look there, they raise their tomahawks in joy!—
Our chief can step no further, I think!

Squaw:
You do think too much and have not treaded
A hand’s length since the last time—he does bound!

Drummer:
Leave me, squaw, I am to drum soon.

(Enter Flourish; the war-chief [Mushkanatoa] and the warriors [Okakulli])

Squaw:
Hey, who is that to come walking in last
Like that? We did win, didn’t we?

Drummer:
We did, but that’s Okakulli, he’s no
Warrior.

Squaw:
You say this as if you knew
The reason. I’ve heard the man strike the post;
And look: four fresh scalps, that’s warrior-made!

Drummer:
I see, it’s true; but ever since he failed
To venge himself, well—

Squaw:
He’s no warrior?

Drummer:
I’d rather say a squaw’s a better one.

Squaw:
He must convince me: I shall have to hear
The tale of this come war.—You’ll play a song
For my leaving?

Drummer:
Only with my foot.

Squaw:
Then I won’t get far.

Drummer:
Nor will you know to dance to it.

Squaw:
But wait! Follow me; Mushkanatoa
Will speak of their return.

(Mushkanatoa comes forth; many gather around him) 

Mushkanatoa:
Victory is ours, brothers and sisters;
Victory is ours if you cannot see:
We bring the enemy back by the hair
To give to our squaws for dance and song,
And they, swinging them round and singing loud,
Shall tell it to the gods! For let them know
We be victorious; let them know fate
Is in my blood; and if a whim of war
I catch again, then let them know I be
The eagle who lands upon the carcass
Before the rest have come!
But for all those
Who swarm, and take up this path, not all shall
Get their share, and were those, who on our flight,
Had to be left beside the trail: there lies
Shinitoosak, and when we pass that pile
Of rocks built up over his body, we
Must say his name twice to justify him.
But all those who came back with me, we leave
This crowd, and must cleanse our empoisoned blood,
Before we tell our tales of war: come, men,
Join me in the council-house, where our great
Priest shall make us us again. Okufi,
Lead us there, lead us to the path of men!
And you, brothers and sisters, wait for us
On the ceremonial hill, where song
And dance shall bring us forth.

Scene:
The ceremonial hill

(Enter Squaws [Nakakowa] and warriors [Okakulli, Chimhok] and war-chief [Mushkanatoa] all seated in a circle; Drummer lightly drumming)

Mushkanatoa: (rises)
Now that our evil urges have been coughed
And sweated, we are fit to tell our pure
Deeds; deeds which, so very many, are left
Not for me to say, but that man bravest
Who was the heart of our expedition—
Okakulli: name these brave deeds of war.

(Okakulli rises; and with a loud scream drives his tomahawk into the post; then speaks) 

Okakulli:
Great chief, Mushkanatoa, here I leave
My bloody tomahawk for one brave deed,
The bravest there. For bravery consists
Not how hazardous this life you leave it,
But what in taking from it you’ve given.
I’ve given the most, and if one thinks not,
After I have spoken, let him come forth
And take this tomahawk from this broad post,
And if so, then I am nothing.

Mushkanatoa:
If we speak of deeds, let us only speak
Of yours.

Okakulli:
We will; but first what I’ve given most.
If not, I say, we’d not be in such a mood,
But have lost our war.

Mushkanatoa:
There was no man I saw come flying up
As quick as you.

Okakulli:
And I was but second.

Mushkanatoa:
You made the first strike, the last was yours too.

Okakulli:
I fought, chief, and fought enough, and brought three
Scalps for Mineola, but short of pride.

Mushkanatoa:
Modesty is not a warrior—not.
You shame yourself.

Okakulli:
And I shame you all if I tell this not.

Mushkanatoa:
Speak then, and after we’ll disdain.

Okakulli:
If so,
I doubt.

Mushkanatoa:
Doubt I first; but I doubt not once your shame
As you were a weak warrior. Speak.

Okakulli:
So then hear me speak as you think I am—
Our trail was led into the enemy’s
Territory, with all signs of success:
Our dreams were good, our game was freshly sent,
It was as if the land we were on knew
We had come to make all species equal,
And it fulfilled what we had loss to get.
Our spies who laid before us saw no signs
Of preparation, nor upon our back
Did the enemy feign encircle us
With a preconceived intention. Our men
Were happy, all the manitous’ favor
Did show our trail into those southern lands
Would have quick beginnings, simple endings,
And we did, never did those signs show wrong—
We broke the Kittuwa and left them dumb!
But as our men ran full upon the town
Of our intent, taking all by surprise,
That all they could do was stand and face death,
I saw, as I was one of the first men,
As the chief said, that warrior who round
This post the night before we left for war,
Did sing so sweetly of a lonely bird,
And left our minds perplexed to his meaning—
And even when we called for him around
Our nightly fires to place those harking words,
He never showed, as if he never existed—
But I saw him through the flying hatchets
When the fight was at its biggest. We all
Were there, so I tell you no bravery:
But all may fight yet still not do brave deeds;
Not all are men as great as words may speak;
Not all are as the winds that take the storms
From an angered person’s eyes, nor lay sleep
In the hearts of the worried wars we try;
But deep, in distant parts, there is an isle
Where men live who speak to our obsession,
And so as men, take what they restore.
We live in this world where the lessening
Makes our hungers more: all this do we have,
Nor can we give in. But there are, at times,
When men come on this land with no hunger,
No desire for their own reward, who seek
A place as if with heart already full;
That place for some may be a grove, cave,
The river’s edge where healthy waters flow,
A distant world, distant only from us
Who do not know; and little by little
Life takes from these men what we would dare search
To make our lives happy with: Men breed men,
Men live off men, and men do die by men—
We are the other’s loss, gain, and struggle,
And thus we are to ourselves a worry,
To get, become, what our hearts discover,
And have no other law this law may win.

Here, look, as before you I lay this scalp,
(takes out a scalp and lays it down)
Look at its long and finely woven hair:
It is a better man’s than any man,
And it is that warrior I laid dead!
You ask why? I say it was for revenge,
Revenge these latest wars forgot to tell
Of inner strife, and it came back to me
When through the screams, and blood, and bodies strewn,
My heart had risen as it always does
In these so vicious and as man-less times,
Where I, a man, had not a heart of mine
To infuse its strength to distinguish foes
And looked, with each my eye, until I saw
This warrior reveal an inner state
In me, that long I had not felt to bound.
I do not say the highest emotions
Always have a truth, but this was self-born,
And he had raised it: thus, to him I called
A lonely word, in the midst of this great
Slaughtering, so low, I thought he’d not heard—
So solemn was wrath in this unstable
Moment—but he raised his head, looked at me,
And then I fell upon him with this song:

I now speak, speak, speak,
This one last time, time:
Hearts are weak, weak, weak,
To their crime, crime, crime.

With this, chief, I did raise to win the fight!

Mushkanatoa:
Who was this dark man, this sly warrior?
For I do, I think, remember his song,
But my visions were so violent then,
I thought I had left this world.

Okakulli:
There is a silence in me that speaks not:
I think it, chief, he had killed my brother,
Which was thought was Mineola’s husband—
And as I knew this man was noble taught,
I soon forgave—but was mistaken.

Mushkanatoa:
You cannot name this warrior, you say?

Okakulli:
I should not; but if anyone can name him,
As we all saw, but have not seen him, let
Them come forth, gladly tell us who it be;
And I shall thus stake my name and honor
For that family to venge him if they can.
If not, I consider myself revenged. (waits)

Mushkanatoa:
Silence. Silence speaks a good deed, perhaps.
But tell us this, your overbearing proof,
And how you knew he killed your brother.

Okakulli:
Truth
Speaks, and wears us as a simple cover;
For, look upon this scalp, and see what hangs
On that hair, majestic more than ever.

Mushkanatoa:
There is but one feather.

Okakulli:
That, my brother
Wore the day I saw him before his death.

Mushkanatoa: (to all)
I do now think this is the bravest deed,
And dare to think anyone could outdo.
(waits)
No one. Then it is for Okakulli!
For this war has given two victories,
The Kittuwa are subdued, and revenge
Has been absorbed. Now let us go enjoy
Our wives, and leave this truth to tradition.

Epilogue

And now, again, we must to silence turn,
And watch this lonely fire slowly burn,
As our thoughts re-pass, and take up other
Paths, and leave these flames that we did bother
To wither away, and this helpless ash
To throw up in the winds my words made rash,
If not to be fanned again, then to pass
Into some other age, to make some earthy mass
Where may spread the wildflowers of this land,
As we, drooping petals where men did stand,
Live within a nature but seldom heard,
A path harsh, but no less sweetly flowered,
That curves and sweeps within a forest, where
The mind has searched, and asked allegiance there,
But dares not rest upon this lonely spot.
Thus, when next the woods has your soul begot,
Search not the flowers or the branches high
To lead you to the whims where thought may lie,
But listen, and when you are surrounded
By such ways you do not know, there founded
Is the place where this just-told story grew,
And there we live, by laws we think are true,
Not far yet to fall to error again,
But right to live and go the way of men.

~END~

Eating Machine by Mark Vannier

The Reckoning Ball: A One-Act Play by L. S. Bassen

Leave a Response