Firewater Odyssey

Beware the witch’s hex of corn
that is bane to the Great Spirit—
so dangerous for the Native-born
that they had much cause to fear it.
In rotund bellies of white oak
charred by the cruel kiss of fire
and aged by the neverending spoke
of the seasons, Time’s turning gyre,
the drink doomed them all, by and by,
with its sweet Calypsodic taste—
the firewater spirits fly so high
while Native souls wither and waste.
And how generously it flowed!
Like venom from a spiteful fang
or Lotus nectar from the abode
of the Cyclops, that one-eyed gang
who coveted their fat-flanked sheep
for which hunger ached in each man—
and Natives passed on, as if asleep
beneath both flock and searching hand,
Not all could escape, nor so many
returning to the life they knew,
but were wholly lost, each, when he
drank deep of the forbidden brew.
And what of men driven mad so
to drink that which both drowns and slakes
and leaves parched, a drunken Wendigo
whose walk creates terrible quakes?
Was a cup of Lethe, brimming,
that made shades of the tribes;
their songs forgotten, their minds dimming,
their history gone—all for bribes
which cost them all more than the worth
as the intoxicating pox
of liquor rose in a drowning surf,
like hot blood spilling at peace talks.
All empires have been born of more
than mere bloodshed and death and strife;
to crush a people takes more than war—
kill their culture, their way of life.
Thus, while Odysseus was lost
far from his family and hall,
the Natives paid a heavier cost,
exiled on waves of alcohol.
So whiskey was the siren song
that subsumed the songs of their souls,
calling them to Conquest’s coral throng,
their bones sinking within Time’s shoals.

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