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Poem: "Fool's Game" - The Wordsmith's Forge — LiveJournal
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ysabetwordsmith
Poem: "Fool's Game"

This poem came out of the March 6, 2012 Poetry Fishbowl.  It was inspired by a prompt from Anthony Barrette and sponsored by Anthony and Shirley Barrette.


Fool's Game


In The Lone Ranger,
things were upside-down and backwards:
the black mask was worn by a white hat
and the Indian was a hero, not a villain.

What I remember is that
the sidekick often saved the day, and the hero,
Tonto darting in at the last minute
to protect the Lone Ranger's identity
or release him from bondage.

What I remember is that
a horse ridden lightly was more use
than the bandits' broken-down nags,
a horse-whisperer working his hidden magic
in a setting where the rule was force, not subtlety.
Silver was as precious as the metal for which he was named.

What I remember is that
these two men were friends,
Tonto and the Lone Ranger inseparable
beyond law and order and vigilante justice,
beyond what their societies thought of each or both,
a hint of fellowship that touched even the culture
telling their stories: for sometimes,
ideals are stronger than reality.

Perhaps what I remember is so,
perhaps not so much.
Perhaps I saw the stories
not as they were, but as I was.
Perhaps everything and nothing is true,
but what matters is less the story
than the ripples it leaves in its wake.

It wasn't until many years later that I learned
tonto  meant "fool" in Spanish.
It made me laugh,
a trickster's secret laugh,
for the Indian fool is not a figure of mockery
but a spirit-touched hero, a sacred clown

who does everything upside-down and backwards.

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Comments
xiphias From: xiphias Date: March 10th, 2012 01:59 am (UTC) (Link)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: March 10th, 2012 10:23 pm (UTC) (Link)

Wow!

What a fabulous story! I have boosted the signal in a main post. I'd really enjoy seeing more of this.
xiphias From: xiphias Date: March 11th, 2012 12:41 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Wow!

Thank you!
paka From: paka Date: March 10th, 2012 02:01 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh wow, cool. I didn't know the word, but I could figure out that it probably wasn't Apache in origin.

Aha! There's a "Tonto Apache" tribe in Arizona - the Chiricachua, who are also Athapaskan speakers, name for the group is binii?e'dine', foolish people, and apparently the name carried over to Spanish. And I'd always assumed that he was supposed to be from this group, but check this out... apparently the same way Reid is a Texas Ranger and the two are lumped together because they're from The West (TM), original canon is that Tonto's a Potawatomi - with "kemo sabe" being an Ojibwa, term - these are guys nowhere near Arizona. Presumably the radio script creators (a Michigander and a New Yorker), assumed he was An Indian (TM), as well as being in The West. So your interpretation of him as trickster figure at least makes some coherent sense!

Still... I gotta wonder whether they were unconsciously trying to imitate the Hero Twins stories a little. That's the sort of big mythological chunk which might just percolate out to an educated New Yorker writing in the 30s/40s.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: March 10th, 2012 08:45 am (UTC) (Link)

Thoughts

>>Presumably the radio script creators (a Michigander and a New Yorker), assumed he was An Indian (TM), as well as being in The West.<<

I remembered Tonto as being somewhat of a mishmash, bits from different tribes. So it fits.

>>Still... I gotta wonder whether they were unconsciously trying to imitate the Hero Twins stories a little.<<

Possibly. A determined scholar, even a hobbyist, could dig up all sorts of interesting things. It's surprising how much got recorded quite early on; fragments, much of it, but still usable.

And some myths retell themselves, especially if you're already standing on them.
the_s_guy From: the_s_guy Date: March 10th, 2012 10:21 pm (UTC) (Link)
That is a wonderfully gnawable memetic link.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: March 10th, 2012 10:27 pm (UTC) (Link)

Yes...

It has stuck in my mind all these years; I'm happy to be able to share it.
wyld_dandelyon From: wyld_dandelyon Date: March 11th, 2012 04:01 pm (UTC) (Link)
I love the last stanza! It's perfect.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: March 11th, 2012 09:53 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

It's a summary of the sacred clown as described in several tribes, including Lakota and ... hmm, one of the southwestern ones, Hopi or Navajo maybe.
wyld_dandelyon From: wyld_dandelyon Date: March 11th, 2012 09:58 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you!

It's definitely accurate for Hopi. I'm not sure one way or the other about Navajo.
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