Beyond Fallen Timbers
White is the dominant tone of this barn painting that is larger than a combine harvester.
On the left side, as from a cloud, a black panther leaps toward a name, the colour of blood,
scrawled beneath its front paws. On the right side is the face of a man that looks white in
the moonlight because of the cherry-pink paint on cheeks and nose. His colonial uniform
adds to the illusion of race – like a white Jesus for a white congregation. But his eyes are
painted black and at an angle to suggest both courage and sadness as they peer past the
panther and across the road to where I am parked by a field. In block letters his biography
is noted: Shawnee War Chief. Gold asterisks like frayed light beneath the panther add a
nice touch for translating his name from Tecumseh to shooting star. However, there are
no depictions of how he and his people were betrayed. I glance into the night. Lights from
suburban sprawl dot the tops of trees in the distance. Those lights belong to Xenia, a city
named after the Greek for “hospitality.” The Shawnee called that city and the surrounding
land the “place of the devil winds.” But it wasn’t those winds that forced Shawnee families
to flee Ohio over two hundred years ago. It wasn’t wind that caused them to stagger
almost a thousand miles with children and elderly on their backs to lands not of their
choosing in Kansas and Oklahoma.
blazing comet …
a snow-clad field
filled with footprints
Author's Note: This barn mural is part of the Ohio history barn program created by the Ohio History Connection. Artwork designed by Browning Design, whose work can be seen at dbrowning.com. Barn painted by Scott Hagan, whose paintings can be found at barnartist.com.
Chris Bays is a father, college professor, art lover, chess player, foodie, and trekker. He received 1st place for Best Unpublished Haibun in 2017 and 2020 through the Haiku Society of America. In 2018 his poem “Waiting for Christmas in Ohio” won a Cottage Prize in the Genjuan International Haibun Contest in Kyoto, Japan. His haibun have been published yearly in the Red Moon Anthology of English-Language Haiku from 2017-2019.
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