To the Stars (an ekphrastic prose-poem)
“The bronze statue of the Kansa warrior, Ad Astra, was placed on top of the [state capital] dome in 2002. […]. The warrior faces toward the North Star, a symbol of finding one’s way. The statue is named for the state motto: Ad astra per aspera, “To the stars through difficulties.”
̶ Kansas Historical Society.
With great difficulty all four thousand, four hundred and twenty pounds of you journeyed three thousand miles without lifting a foot to cross highway, country road, river, or creek, through native-named cities and native-named counties of a native-named state where you were reported to be considered magnificent and made eye contact with no one. Hollow cast in silicon, bronze, and brass, designed as a Kansa; destined never to touch the tender black soil, breathe in the soft sigh of the golden prairie winds, or rest your unliving eyes on these gentle sloping plains; and as a warrior; never to know a single test of courage or undergo any rite of passage, having no spirit to prove worthy. Grown twenty-two feet in fourteen years (though never born) you were given your Latin name.
At first you were second choice only to the crop goddess Ceres, before her reputation was ruined by rumor of scandalous liaisons with brother Jupiter. It was eventually decided that you, as an Indian, were at least a little less controversial than the incestuous pagan, and you were given the honor of a permanent home on the Statehouse dome, and awarded all the weather you could want.
After disappointing a crowd of thousands by refusing your bolts on first attempt, you were again hoisted by four hundred and fifty foot crane and finally fixed atop the copper cupola. The four tribes were in attendance at your formal dedication and blessings were televised as native tongues spoke at long last of final peace and you were declared by the honorable Governor Graves to be both powerful and majestic.
Ten years later I climb the two hundred and ninety-six steps to stand twenty-three feet below your anchored moccasins where I see you sickly green and barely clothed, even in bitter January, wearing only feather headband, necklace, and loincloth all made of your same metal. You stand in frozen motion, at three hundred and four feet and still looking up, stretching taut your bow-string, arrow-point tipped towards Polaris, the bulging muscles of your arms knowing only the ache and tension of the draw, never the relief of release or the simple knowing if you have ever aimed true.