Report to Crazy Horse

By William E. Stafford 1914–1993
All the Sioux were defeated. Our clan   
got poor, but a few got richer.
They fought two wars. I did not
take part. No one remembers your vision   
or even your real name. Now   
the children go to town and like   
loud music. I married a Christian.

Crazy Horse, it is not fair
to hide a new vision from you.
In our schools we are learning
to take aim when we talk, and we have   
found out our enemies. They shift when   
words do; they even change and hide   
in every person. A teacher here says   
hurt or scorned people are places   
where real enemies hide. He says   
we should not hurt or scorn anyone,   
but help them. And I will tell you   
in a brave way, the way Crazy Horse   
talked: that teacher is right.

I will tell you a strange thing:
at the rodeo, close to the grandstand,   
I saw a farm lady scared by a blown   
piece of paper; and at that place   
horses and policemen were no longer   
frightening, but suffering faces were,   
and the hunched-over backs of the old.

Crazy Horse, tell me if I am right:
these are the things we thought we were   
doing something about.

In your life you saw many strange things,   
and I will tell you another: now I salute   
the white man’s flag. But when I salute   
I hold my hand alertly on the heartbeat   
and remember all of us and how we depend   
on a steady pulse together. There are those   
who salute because they fear other flags   
or mean to use ours to chase them:   
I must not allow my part of saluting   
to mean this. All of our promises,   
our generous sayings to each other, our   
honorable intentions—those I affirm   
when I salute. At these times it is like   
shutting my eyes and joining a religious
colony at prayer in the gray dawn   
in the deep aisles of a church.

Now I have told you about new times.   
Yes, I know others will report
different things. They have been caught   
by weak ways. I tell you straight
the way it is now, and it is our way,   
the way we were trying to find.

The chokecherries along our valley
still bear a bright fruit. There is good
pottery clay north of here. I remember
our old places. When I pass the Musselshell
I run my hand along those old grooves in the rock.

William Stafford, “Report to Crazy Horse” from The Way It Is: New & Selected Poems. Copyright © 1998 by the Estate of William Stafford. Reprinted with the permission of Graywolf Press, St. Paul, Minnesota,

Source: The Way It Is: New & Selected Poems (Graywolf Press, 1998)

Discover this poem’s context and related poetry, articles, and media.

Poet William E. Stafford 1914–1993

POET’S REGION U.S., Northwestern

Subjects History & Politics, Religion, Social Commentaries, Relationships, Family & Ancestors, Race & Ethnicity

Poetic Terms Epistle

 William E. Stafford


"If you have been wondering where the articulate, readable poems have gone in the last third of the 20th century, you might start with [William] Stafford," declares Victor Howes of the Christian Science Monitor. A pacifist and one of "the quiet of the land," as he often describes himself, Stafford is known for his unique method of composition, his soft-spoken voice, and his independence from social and literary expectations. As

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT History & Politics, Religion, Social Commentaries, Relationships, Family & Ancestors, Race & Ethnicity

POET’S REGION U.S., Northwestern

Poetic Terms Epistle

Report a problem with this poem

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.