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white river poems 303
Meeker asks, `And who was that?'
`His name is Fisk,' I tell him,
`former member of the Board
of Indian Commissioners;
now a banker.... Would you say
the man got the story straight?'
`Oh, yes.' But he says the words
dismissively, glancing down
at the piece of barrel stave.
And I say, `I only meant
to ask for the truth.' -- `The truth.
Everybody has the right
to say that certain misdeeds
in his life shall be left out,
-- and those of the gravest sort,
simply left out of account.'
`You're speaking of forgiveness.'
But he brushes this aside.
`What a man does is mostly
not personal, since he is
a sort of clan of desires
coming from savage country
he does not know much about
for a long time -- he's busy;
with most of them he is not
on close terms; then, some have died
in infancy; some falter
lifelong; some vie for the lead
and a few get it and have
their day; or fail; some get by
quietly, keeping their heads down --
and meanwhile the man's busy,
maintaining the whole outfi t
even if they are deadlocked
with one another, or with
bad weather, or both, too much