BUFFALO BILL ON THE ROODEE, CHESTER, 1903


And here he is at the head of a line
of his Wild West Circus artistes, Native
Americans in traditional feathers,
sharpshooters and rodeo cowboys,
all ahorse, with a chap in a raincoat
and trilby standing by on the turf
as if calling out ‘Starters’ orders!’
and well dressed spectators
leaning over the parapet of the Roman walls.

The Roodee used to be a tidal pool.
It silted gradually and became
a vast Guild sponsored football pitch until
the injuries and the drunkenness forced
the city fathers to outlaw football
and create a race course, which prospers today
and populates the city each fixture with
extravagantly dressed and largely pacific
inebriates. So, here he is, slaughterer,
impresario, free mason, army scout,
a modern hustler despite his whiskers –
who rode thirty miles, when he was ten,
to warn his anti-slavery father
of a plot to kill him – measure for measure.

 

 

 

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  1. #1 by John Huddart - February 26th, 2015 at 23:45

    I often think about the phrase ‘Native Americans’, which replaced the ‘Red Indians’ of my childhood. It seems there is no way of describing pre-Europeans in the US which doesn’t imply there is no way of naming them without a European word or two. Here enslavement to a name that derives from the first name of an Italian. Apparently the Native American term is official US government speak. The many nations of the pre-European NA continent often described themselves as ‘The People!

    Why does your poetry send me off into tangents? Answer, because its doing its job of always raising more questions than it answers.

    Thanks for this – a great postcard of a poem!

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