Artwork: Victor Pepión, The Buffalo Hunt

The Buffalo Hunt, excerpt from mural by Victor Pepión, Museum of the Plains Indian.

Image Courtesy of the U.S. Department of the Interior, Indian Arts and Crafts Board.

Blue Horses

are gray, wearing an overcoat of frost,
like a swan’s wing against an overcast sky.
Roan or dapple, they are a marquee species
amidst the brown herd—the sorrel, bay,
and appaloosa. High on the walls
of the museum rotunda, the buffalo, too,
are circling, among them the people, younger
than they will ever be again, their deer
skins soft and carefully beaded. They tell us
a story of when snow came in winter,
when summer turned the horizon lines blue.
The Blackfeet artist used a technique
called fresco secco, sixty years after the buffalo
were gone, thirty million hunted down
to a few hundred. His dry pigments,
slaked with lime, are now part of the plaster
wall, just as the red ochre in ancient
pictographs has bound with limestone.
Ninety-nine degrees on the Siberian tundra,
thousands of reindeer dead as anthrax
was released from the melting permafrost.
Earth remembering the last bout of it.
In the painter’s conception of his ancestors—
only one or two generations past—
the weather is perfect, plants free of disease.
Picture yourself when you were most joyful,
the meditation begins. As if you were
still there. Try to see again through those eyes.

Melissa Kwasny