Sitting Bull in Serbia By William Jay Smith


A hundred years ago, they say, Buffalo Bill

brought his Wild West Show--

and, with it, Sitting Bull--

here to this Serbian town.

People came to stare at the western warrior,

his weathered face mottled and brown

as a raisin from their vineyards;

and what did he see, the old chief,

when, dark-eyed, he returned their stare?

When the carnival dust settled

and the war whoops died, what did he see

beyond the hoopla of the ring,

the wild, phony, stampeding horses?

In a twisting thread of smoke

rising from the square

he saw perhaps the shrouded mountains of his boyhood;

in the embroidered dresses of peasant women,

the flashing pebbles of clear streams;

in the somber, tasseled jackets of the men

the outline of a circling eagle’s wings.

And far off, above the House of the Two Pistols,

where Black George, leader of the Serbian revolt,

had hidden,

high above the Bishop’s Palace,

over the town’s brooding tower,

he saw the Earth’s Great Spirit

hover for a moment,

and then, with a shaggy, humpbacked bison,

plunge down the western sky

headlong into the night.

From “The Cherokee Lottery,” by William Jay Smith (Curbstone Press: 102 pp., $13.95 paper)