THE GHOSTS OF CARLISLE INDIAN SCHOOL

by Joseph BruChac

The ghosts of the Carlisle Indian School
are drinking again tonight down by the church.

You can hear them chanting
the same school fight song
that prodded proud Pop Warner’s warriors
to victories over Harvard and Army.

Minnewa kah, Minnewa kah
Minnewa kah wah weh!

Those boarding school ghosts
are now weaving their way
along the muddy Frogtown Road.

So long dead, they believe they survived
all of the abuses they absorbed,
the brutal beatings meted out
whenever any child forgot and spoke
a single word in a Native tongue.

Those wraiths believe that they’re still young.
They think they’ve stolen the big bass drum
from the marching band shed and soon the sounds
of war songs older than Protestant hymns
will echo off shocked Pennsylvania hills.

In the morning, though, sober as the grave,
they will wake once more in memory’s gutter,
the drum head of their dreams kicked in,
insubstantial lips as dry as coal dust,
no more than white visions vanishing into mist.