Excerpt of The Poet of Tolstoy Park by Sonny Brewer
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The Poet of Tolstoy Park
After the heyoka ceremony I came to live here where I am now between Wounded Knee Creek and Grass Creek. Others came too and we made these little gray houses of logs that you see, and they are square. It is a bad way to live, for there can be no power in a square.
"You have noticed that everything an Indian does is in a circle. And that is because the Power of the World always works in a circle, and everything tries to be round
"The sky is round and I have heard that the earth is round like a ball. And so are all the stars. The wind in its greatest power whirls.
"Birds make their nests in a circle, for theirs is the same religion as ours.
"But the Waischus [white men] have put us in these square boxes. Our power is gone and we are dying, for the Power is not in us any more."
Black Elk, Holy Man of the Oglala Sioux
Henry walked out of the doctor's office and the drumming rain that had begun to fall went straight through his thin white hair, wetting his head and sending a chill down his back. Instead of putting on his hat he placed the flat of his palm on his forehead and stroked the dampness accruing there. He sat down on the edge of the porch, quickly soaking the seat of his pants.
He rubbed his hands together and massaged the pain in his knuckles, then lifted his left foot and took hold of the heel of his boot and tugged it off and in a moment crossed his right leg over stiffly and removed the other boot. Henry decided, because it was his option to do so, that he would abandon his boots, and he paired them up evenly there on the boards. Henry wondered how long they would sit before someone took them. They were good Wellington's and not badly worn and he thought someone would be surprised to find them.
Henry could not remember when last he walked barefoot in the rain, mud squishing up between his toes. He believed it was Black Elk, or maybe Chief Seattle, who said the man who always wears his moccasins thinks the earth is covered with leather. Henry planted his palms on his knees, caressed the wet brown twill trousers, and from those points levered himself to standing. He would let his feet know that this piece of earth was covered with mud, and thought perhaps they'd enjoy knowing that.
He tilted his face downward and was lifting his rumpled and sweat stained felt hat when he heard his name called and looking up saw the horse and wagon drawing near the plank sidewalk in front of which he stood. Twenty years ago in Nampa, Idaho, the first automobile had been delivered on a flat traincar. Now in 1925 the tables were turned and only a few stubborn sorts still went about in horse drawn carriages or wagons. This driver was among them, sitting alone on the buckboard seat, the long leather reins drawn tight in his gloved hand, making to stop the dappled gray Appaloosa. With his left hand the driver pulled back hard on the brake shaft.
"'Hoa! Hoa back there, Bo," the driver said.
The horse slowed his walk, hooves sucking at the muddied street, but did not come to a stop until the wagon was dead even with Henry. This side street was one of four remaining unoiled or unpaved streets in Nampa and some of Doctor Belton's patients said perhaps the dust and mud was unsanitary, but the doctor disagreed. He did not like automobiles himself and he owned the entire block so the town council took their pavement elsewhere for the time being and that kept most of the cars away.
"How do, Brother Webb?" Henry nodded to the man in the wagon. "You pray up this rain?"
Henry raised his arm, hat in hand, and slowly wiped the top of his head with his shirt sleeve, depositing his hat there before dropping his hand to his side. His arms hung straight, his fingers loose.
Excerpted from The Poet of Tolstoy Park by Sonny Brewer Copyright © 2005 by Sonny Brewer. Excerpted by permission of Ballantine Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.