'Crossing the same path two moon and roman nose once wandered'

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In 'Leaving Bents Fort' Lance Henson wrestles deeply with the meaning of being a Cheyenne in America — a meaning that is as complex historically as it is in the present and towards the future. The names of the indigenous Americans, the fierce and heroic Cheyenne warriors, Roman Nose and Two Moon (a spiritual chief leader), are set against the name of a fort built in southern Colorado, named for white traders, Charles and William Bent, as the singular outpost established to execute a brutal war against the Cheyenne. In his truck, Henson traverses the present landscape that is ancient as his heritage. Henson’s confession that he is “barely in America” is ironic. He is in and outside of America, for America must always contend with its troubled genesis and invention, one that, for this Cheyenne, invokes the tension between “rage and freedom”.

 

LEAVING BENTS FORT

by Lance Henson

 

Leaving bents fort

For Floyd bringing good

 

Riding the high plains from Colorado

To Kansas

 

A whirlwind gaunt and alone crosses the landscape

 

I drive the truck south toward Oklahoma

Crossing the same path two moon and roman nose

Once wandered

 

I am on the edge

 

Barely in America

 

Somewhere between rage and freedom …

 

American Life in Poetry is made possible by the Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2021 by Lance Henson, 'Leaving Bents Fort' from The Antonym, October 23, 2021. Poem reprinted by permission of the author and the publisher. Introduction copyright ©2022 by the Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Kwame Dawes, is George W Holmes Professor of English and Glenna Luschei Editor of Prairie Schooner at the University of Nebraska


 

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