I visited the Crazy Horse Memorial for the first time this summer and it moved me beyond words. The scale is so huge - far, far bigger than Mt. Rushmore - but it was the Indian Museum of North America that made the visit worthwhile. I have studied the Sioux Nation but the beauty of the artifacts and the terrible history of the white man overrunning a culture, yet again, really resonated. But that is the power of this place: the memory of the ultimate resistance fighter Crazy Horse and the stories, the history, the culture are very much alive. Korczak Ziolkowski, the original sculptor liked to quote these lines: "When the legends die, the dreams end; and when the dreams end, there is no more greatness." The legends, the dreams and the greatness are tangible, I can breathe them in.
Having just come from my brother's wedding full of Lakota ceremony and also celebrating my third anniversary, I found myself welling up with tears when I came across this beautiful poem in the museum about a wife's love for her husband written by the talented poet Irene Latham. The gift shop didn't sell copies of the broadside so I wrote to Irene to inquire about buying one from her. Sadly, she doesn't have any more, but we struck up a correspondence, I ordered her latest book of poems and I can't wait to meet her in Seattle or Alabama someday. You might also enjoy reading her blog Live Your Poem. I do, very much.
Black Shawl Remembers Crazy Horse
The old ones like to say memory is like riding a trail at night with a lighted torch. And so it does not surprise me that your face has been swallowed by darkness, your voice black as the wounded wings of a crow. But sometimes the torch flares, illuminating the way your body folded itself against mine, how the last time you loved me you dipped your thumb in red paint and covered the part in my hair, marking me a woman greatly loved. When the rattlesnake came into the lodge, you could not crush it. And you couldn't save our daughter from the white man's coughing disease. In the end, the Black Hills were lost, too - the heart of everything that is. I wasn't your only wife. But I am the one who remembers. I whisper your name and it drifts as snow across the prairie, then melts and is gone.
~ Irene Latham