poem index

The Happy Place

Rawdon Tomlinson
(Geronimo to Barrett about Noche-ay-del-Klinne, Fort Sill, I.T., 1905)

With sand-wind flapping
the wickiup's canvas, San Carlos,
he told me how he'd died
on the battlefield and seen
the Happy Place: that narrow
cañon opening on a day
glowing without sun that those
near death returned
claim and hold as touch.

He told me how he subdued,
by simply showing no fear,
rattlers, grizzlies, and lions
until he reached the green
valley—and found the game
more plentiful than before
White Eyes, and his beloved,
more radiant than in life,
sang only round songs.

Many believed him, and I can’t
say that he didn’t tell
the truth—but he’d never held
a dead son, felt the body's 
stone doll, its eyes opening
a cave in the chest that won’t
close with age or steps.
I told him I couldn't recall
what I'd seen while knocked cold
on the battlefield, but perhaps
it's well we’re not certain.

Neither blade holds an edge.

Reprinted by permission of Louisiana State University Press from The Happy Place by Rawdon Tomlinson. Copyright © 2007 by Rawdon Tomlinson.

Rawdon Tomlinson