Jess Author Photo.JPG

Tyehimba Jess

These are the drafts that led to the final poem, Indian Combat, which appears in Olio. This is an ekphrastic poem inspired by Edmonia Lewis' sculpture of the same name.

The poem started out on notebook paper, where I was trying to get the general sense of the poem. The first lines were still being forged slowly into the imagery of internal and eternal struggle that would be more fully realized in the final draft.

After taking a few drafts directly from pen to paper, I transferred the poem to computer where I went through several more drafts, saving each one until I came up with the final version.

This poem is now inscribed on a plaque next to the actual sculpture in the Cleveland Museum of Art.

< draft > 

< REVISION 1 >

indian combat

Marble, 1868. Edmonia Lewis 

Stolen from stone, 
pressed into battle,
we were called forth
to be warriors.
We never weary, seek
no asylum except
the perpetual hatchet,
the forever blade,
the never-ending arrow,
our fists. Our cause
cuts thicker than blood,
beats beyond bone,
our forms forged
by a brown woman's
brunt, her design over
all our fates entwined
like fingers laced in prayer
for victory, then mercy,
then dug beneath the Earth
to resurrect our very lives.

< REVISION 2 >

indian combat

Marble, 1868. Edmonia Lewis

Stolen from marble, 
pressed into battle,
we three warriors
were called forth
to be, forever, enemies. 
We never weary, seek
no asylum except
the perpetual hatchet, 
the eternal blade, 
the never-ending arrow,
our fists that swallow
our senses 'til we
cough up blood
for our forgotten
cause that cuts 
thicker than lust,
beats beyond bone. 
Our forms were forged
by a free brown woman's 
brunt, her design for
all our fates entwined
like fingers laced in prayer
for victory, then mercy,
then dug into the Earth 
to resurrect our embattled 
lives lived just as her own:
pounded into memory
with metal and stone. 

< REVISION 3 >

indian combat

Marble, 1868. Edmonia Lewis

Stolen from marble, 
pressed into battle,
we three warriors
were called forth
to be, forever, enemies. 
We never weary, seek
no asylum except
the perpetual hatchet, 
the eternal blade, 
the never-ending arrow,
our fists that swallow
our senses 'til we
cough up blood
for our forgotten
cause that still cuts 
thicker than lust,
beats beyond bone. 
Our forms were forged
by a free brown woman's 
brunt, her design for
all our fates entwined
like fingers laced in prayer
for victory, then mercy,
then dug into the Earth 
to resurrect our embattled 
lives lived just as her own:
pounded into memory
with metal and stone. 

< REVISION 4 >

indian combat

Marble, 1868. Edmonia Lewis

Stolen from marble, 
pressed into slaughter,
we three warriors
were called forth
to be, forever, enemies. 
We never weary, seek
no asylum except
the perpetual hatchet, 
the eternal blade, 
the never-ending arrow,
our fists that swallow
our senses 'til we
cough up blood
for our forgotten
cause that still cuts 
thicker than lust,
beats beyond bone. 
Our forms were forged
by a free brown woman's 
brunt, her design for
all our fates entwined
like fingers laced in prayer
for victory, then mercy,
then dug into the Earth 
to resurrect our embattled 
lives lived just as her own:
pounded into memory
with metal and stone. 

< REVISION 5 >

indian combat

Marble, 1868. Edmonia Lewis

We three warriors
were called forth
to be, forever, enemies. 
Stolen from marble, 
pressed into slaughter,
we never weary, seek
no asylum except
the perpetual hatchet, 
the eternal blade, 
the never-ending arrow,
our fists that swallow
our senses 'til we
cough up blood
for forgotten causes 
that still cut thicker 
than ancient lust.
Our forms were forged
by a free brown woman's 
brunt, her design for
all our fates entwined
like fingers laced in prayer
for victory, then mercy,
then dug into the Earth 
to resurrect our embattled 
lives lived just as her own:
pounded into memory
with metal and stone. 

< REVISION 6 >

indian combat

Marble, 1868. Edmonia Lewis

We three warriors
were called forth
to be, forever, enemies.
Stolen from marble,
pressed into slaughter,
we never weary. We seek
no asylum except
the perpetual hatchet,
the eternal blade,
the never-ending arrow,
our fists that swallow
our senses 'til we
become memorials
for forgotten causes
that still cut thicker
than ancient lust.
Our forms were forged
by a free brown woman's
brunt, her design for
all our fates entwined
like fingers laced in prayer
for victory, then mercy,
then dug into the earth
to resurrect our embattled
lives lived just as her own:
pounded into memory
with metal and stone. 
.

< REVISION 7 >

indian combat

Marble, 1868. Edmonia Lewis 

We three warriors
were called forth
to be, forever, enemies. 
Stolen from marble, 
pressed into slaughter,
we never weary. We seek
no asylum except
the perpetual hatchet, 
the eternal blade, 
the never-ending arrow,
our fists that swallow
our senses 'til we've carved 
ourselves into memorials
for causes long forgotten.
Our fight was forged
by a free brown woman's 
brunt, her design for
all our fates entwined
like fingers laced in prayer
for victory, then mercy,
then dug into the Earth 
to resurrect our embattled 
lives lived just as her own:
pounded into memory
with metal on stone.  


< final version >

indian combat

Marble, 1868. Edmonia Lewis 


We three warriors
were called forth
to be, forever, enemies. 
Stolen from marble, 
pressed into slaughter,
we never weary. We 
seek no asylum except
the perpetual hatchet, 
the eternal blade, 
the never-ending arrow,
our fists that swallow
our senses 'til we've carved 
ourselves into memorials
for causes long forgotten.
Our fight was forged
by a free brown woman's 
brunt, her design for
all our fates entwined
like fingers laced in prayer
for victory, then mercy,
then dug into the Earth 
to resurrect our embattled 
lives lived just as her own:
pounded into memory
with mettle on stone.