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This poem came out of the May 2, 2017 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired and sponsored by Anthony Barrette. It also fills the "criminal intent" square in my 4-3-17 card for the [community profile] origfic_bingo fest. This is the kind of history I grew up reading, and sometimes got kicked out of class for mentioning; so if you like the way I write this stuff, thank my father.


"Battles and Wars"


George Armstrong Custer
was a man who told his own tales,
tall ones, inflating his deeds and his ego.

He had a white wife and a Cheyenne mistress,
who shouted and whispered his history.

He did whatever he wanted,
often with criminal intent.

He lost the battle but won the war.


The Lakota honored the Paha Sapa,
the Black Hills, more than they cared for gold,
and fought to protect their sacred lands.

The Cheyenne, too, followed them
off the empty prison of the reservation
to make their stand at Greasy Grass.

Among them, his Cheyenne woman
was left to speak her truth.

They won the battle but lost the war.

* * *

George Armstrong Custer is most famous for his last, fatal mistakes in the Battle of Greasy Grass (Little Bighorn).  For a native account, see the illustrations by Red Horse.  According to oral tradition, he also had a son by a Cheyenne mistress. You can read more about his shabby reputation here.

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