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Sample Poems by Faye George



Alexander: Wamsutta

Moonanam . . . Wamsutta . . . now Alexander,
    Chief Sachem.
As it was my father's-Massasoit's-wish
    That we should keep
The peace between us and the English,
    And as it was
Our custom to mark a death or other
    Solemn time
By shedding one's old name to take another,
    At his passing,
I, Wamsutta, with younger brother Metacom,
    Would ask that Plymouth
Bestow upon us English names, honoring
    Our father's wish.
Hence, I would now be known as "Alexander";
    My brother, "Philip":
Named for ancient kings, which flattered us as
    It was meant to do.
But keep the peace? I fear it was by then
    Too late for that.

I do not fault my father, so hard-pressed,
    The bargain made
To forge against the Narragansett threat
    An English shield,
With Wampanoag numbers so diminished
    By the plague
That swept our land like fire in autumn grass,
    Our flesh its kindling.
So many dead, the villages had no one left
    To bury them.
Their whited bones lay scattered over ground;
    Those who could, fled.
Crumbling wetus, grinning skulls, were left
    To greet the English,
Who found in our distress their lucky chance;
    Much as the bird
That lays its eggs in another bird's nest,
    Unwitting host,
Whose own offspring will be displaced by
    The invader's.
Caught between two wolves, my father thus
    Allied himself
With one against the other, believing
    English guns would
Help him keep encroaching Narragansetts
    At a distance.

He took a gambler's risk in trusting Whites,
    Knowing Englishmen
With little cause kill Indians; how some,
    Like Captain Hunt-
Who captured Epenow and Squanto-
    Would carry us
Away upon their ships to sell as slaves
    Beyond the sea.
But having cast his lot with Plymouth,
    My father's ears
Were closed to others' words, others' warnings.
    Edward Winslow
Came and went a welcome friend among
    The Pokanoket,
Which not a little troubled Corbitant,
    Pocasset Sachem,
A man of influence within the Federation,
    And not a little
Jealous, perhaps ambitious to become
    Chief Sachem.
Were Ousamequin-Massasoit-less loved
    Among the people,
It might have been the source of storms
    Between them.
For his part, Corbitant continued chary
    Of these English.
I see that Corbitant possessed a sense
    Of hidden things.
And had his hand been free to rally all
    The discontent,
The griefs that chafed and galled and vexed us,
    The injustices-
He would have rid us of the English before
    Another sun.
Before another Winslow or his son
    Would think himself
The master of these lands, and summon me-
    Summon me!
To answer at his bidding, where I go,
    Whence I come.

I answer thus this Englishman, trespasser
    Of Wampanoag land,
Reminding him, Josiah Winslow, how it was:
    -His father
Would not have lived to sire and raise him up
    Had it not been
The hand of Massasoit that lifted their distress
    In time of peril,

Giving succor to that wretched band
    Of castaways,
Landing pilgrimed on our shores in the worst
    Of winter frost.
None would have survived the famine time
    Without our corn,
Stolen Indian corn! -From corn to land,
    The theft goes on.
How is it that the suffered guest should come
    To rule the house?

Summon me? -Wamsutta, Alexander,
    Chief Sachem
Of the Wampanoag Federation!
    I give my answer:
Not for this did my father and our people,
    With all good will,
Give yours a place to make their homes
    And dwell among us;
Not to submit as slaves to English law,
    Not to live as
Children of the English governor!
    Now you hear this:
We are not your children, neither your slaves.
    Nor will you,
Josiah Winslow, tell me how I shall
    Dispose my land.
Do not send your soldiers, armed and dressed
    Like plated beasts,
To fetch me thither with a pointed gun.
    Do not wave your
Paper treaties made of lies before my face.
    And do not force my hand!