New Mexican Mountain
I watch the Indians dancing to help the young corn at Taos
pueblo. The old men squat in a ring
And make the song, the young women with fat bare arms, and a
few shame-faced young men, shuffle the dance.
The lean-muscled young men are naked to the narrow loins,
their breasts and backs daubed with white clay,
Two eagle-feathers plume the black heads. They dance with
reluctance, they are growing civilized; the old men persuade them.
Only the drum is confident, it thinks the world has not changed;
the beating heart, the simplest of rhythms,
It thinks the world has not changed at all; it is only a dreamer,
a brainless heart, the drum has no eyes.
These tourists have eyes, the hundred watching the dance, white
Americans, hungrily too, with reverence, not laughter;
Pilgrims from civilization, anxiously seeking beauty, religion,
poetry; pilgrims from the vacuum.
People from cities, anxious to be human again. Poor show how
they suck you empty! The Indians are emptied,
And certainly there was never religion enough, nor beauty nor
poetry here … to fill Americans.
Only the drum is confident, it thinks the world has not changed.
Apparently only myself and the strong
Tribal drum, and the rockhead of Taos mountain, remember
that civilization is a transient sickness.
from The Seashell Anthology of Great Poetry
Park Lane Press, 1996