JAMES B. SCOVILLE
The Old Elk Speaks
Black Elk famous Oglala Sioux
a medicine man with visions who
told of when the earth was young
men and animals spoke one tongue.
Not long ago when the moon was new
he spoke to me as I speak to you;
my bow, a gun, and my Byers' hat,
on Weitas Creek, West Virginia Flats.
I had stood longside a great black bear
arrow point ten feet from his inky hair;
spent a full five minutes debating his end
when Black Elk spoke "don't shoot my friend."
I thought to myself, it had to be fear
that kept me from shooting that black so near;
It was prudence that kept me from taking the chance
of a new portrayal of the Sioux Bear Dance.
However, quite soon I heard it again
Black Elk speaking on behalf of a friend.
The second bear stood seemed eight feet tall,
and I'd drawn the arrow to make him fall.
The excitement was there as I centered his chest,
the danger was gone and the fear put to rest;
still I couldn't release and I don't know why,
unless t'was because of the words from the sky.
Now the voice was imagined after the fact
I'll admit that, because it was on the way back
to our camp in the dark when I stumbled and saw
the old elk himself with his bones bleached raw!
I picked up the skull with antlers long shed
and from those dark sockets softly was said
"you were called Two Bears, back in the past;
you've now earned the name of Oglala at last."
© 1977 James B. Scoville
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