Ishi

 

Ishi*

 

The last one seen alive

died on display

after

he staggered in unarmed,

three years lonely.

 

By then,

he had remembered to forget

the screams of mothers made to watch

their babes busted into bits, after

their forced concession to rape 

and the silence, as shocking, 

following their deaths,

all by blows of the rifle butt

to save bullets.

 

Walking the creek bed

will do that to a child.

Cold water and smooth rock

remind him of his mother

and how she washed his feet

even after he bit her breast

until she bled.

 

The last one seen alive

staggered into the corral politely,

anticipating every kindness.

 

He had lived long enough since

to remember who he was before

the first mother was killed.

 

The refined curious boy named him 'man' 

 

 Ishi by Denise Monaghan / denisemonaghan.com

Ishi by Denise Monaghan / denisemonaghan.com

note: 'Ishi' was written and originally shared in an Extinction Witness post September 2015 along with paintings by Denise Monaghan during a month's witness with primates that considered the roots of violent competition, referencing Animal Weapons: The Evolution of Battle by Douglas Emlen.

Born around 1860, Ishi is the last known living member of the Yahi, a small tribe that lived near Mount Lassen in northern California. Theodora Kroeber tells Ishi’s story in her book Ishi in Two Worlds: A Biography of the Last Wild Indian in North America (1961). In his 2014 SF Gate article, one in a series devoted to San Francisco’s history, Gary Kamiya reflects on how Ishi (‘man’ in Yahi language) acquired a name. Ishi endured the climax of genocide in California. Details in 'Ishi' of the genocide Ishi endured are imagined of brutalities yet witnessed today.

*'Ishi' continues posting poems written as part of the 2014 - 2015 monthly revolving witness at Extinction Witness while I'm editing a six-year collection.

Denise Monaghan's portrait of Ishi is shared with artist's permission. 

New daily poems resume once the collection goes to the publisher.