Ortiz’s Warrior Blood

What first got my attention in Simon Ortiz’s “Sand Creek” was the transition from “Warriors will keep alive in the blood” (33) to the last line on the following page, “Warriors could have passed into their young blood” (35). There is an interesting movement of warriors, blood, and the young within “Sand Creek”. “Don’t fret/ Warriors will keep alive in the blood” is both a reassurance as well as a prompt and promise to revive. It draws both from the fight and from lineage: there is the writhing warrior with a sort of agitation, but also, with “in the blood” it is implied that this warrior quality is inherent and is passed down in generations. It is this native warrior tradition that reassures.

What occurs between this line and the final “Warriors could have passed into their young blood” on the next page is a missed opportunity, a drop off in the writhing warrior blood of the generation. Ortiz says

“But they refused to understand.
Instead, they protested
The northwind,
Kept adding rooms.
Built fences.
Their children learned to plan,
Their parents required submission.”

The young blood of the children stalls within these added rooms and fences, and clouds the uproar of the warrior within. Another example of this stalled blood is “the magpie is determined to freeze” (19). Assigned to a person, a magpie would be a collector of frivolous and trivial things or a casual babbler. Ortiz comments on the loss in such a person in attention and awe to nature, value, tradition, etc. Just like the stalled blood of the children, this too is an idle state that clouds out the warrior.

For Ortiz, the warrior manifests itself for a moment as Whitman when he says: “When I was younger—and America was young too in the 19th century—Whitman was a poet I loved, and I grew older. And Whitman was dead” (80). There is a vacancy that enters here with the poet’s aging, similar to the stalling of blood, and the loss of the warrior.

The poem revives itself some, with the “spurting, sparkling, splashing, bubbling, steady hot arcing streams” of blood that erupted at the Sand Creek massacre, surprising all. It is not necessarily a resolve, but a reminder of this warrior blood’s existence. Again, a call away from idle blood a few pages later: “it is the rising of our blood and breath which will free our muscles, minds, spirits.”

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1 Response to Ortiz’s Warrior Blood

  1. AVZ says:

    Great attention to detail here. You get at a core tension of the poem–that of forward movement and momentum and progress against a sense of stasis and stalling. There’s this gap between the poem’s death and the poem’s life, its mourning and its optimism.

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