“Portrait of Young Man,” Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, WikiArt.

Part 4: Deer-Leg Pemmican

Over summer weeks, I’ve grown to respect the
Prairie, grandeur and dangers, scudding clouds
Beneath open sunlit skies, descending rain,
Grasslands wind-waving as if sentient being,
All round me alive. Near the Dane-zah Indians
I have settled at hillside copse of trees, across
Flowing stream from their encampment. Their
Words I have learnt: “Ker-Chee!,” shouted
Repeatedly at stray dog entering their camp,
And at me, to leave their land, or to them,
I was stray dog, more truth than they knew.

One of their warriors, man of statue, in height-
Dignity, stream-waded, offering front leg of
Deer, hoof and hide attached, same chiding,
“Ker-Chee!” repeated backhand waves. But
How could I leave? My possessions, large oil-
Skin covered mound, were beyond my carrying,
Freighter canoe required. Undaunted, I drew
Upon skills learnt in hardware trade, making
Pemmican. Nearby berries gathered, sliced
Deer into thin strips, smoky fat-smelling fire
Built, attracting curious Dane-zah, eye and
Nose, children, men and women.

Boiling fat, sizzling meat, grinding stones, two-
Day’s work, single deer leg, yielded potful of
Preserved meat. Across stream I waded, greeted
By knife and spear, and familiar “Ker-Chee!”
Shouts. Pinch of pemmican to my lips, offered
Them gift. Warrior of statue-dignity, as I knew
Him, confronted me, took taste, reluctant smile
Conveyed. No friendship, ours was strained
Truce, my presence tolerated if more pemmican
Produced. Summer spent at copse of trees,
Edge of clear-flowing Dane-zah river stream,
We strove to converse and to trust.

Is Aaron Ross transient or enduring poetic character? So far,
I am not sure. On occasion, voices like his ether-appear, visit,
and disappear. His voice, nonetheless, seems steady and strong.
Thanks for reading.

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