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SHJ Issue 18
Spring 2018

Eclipse at Wounded Knee, August 21, 2017

by Dick Eiden

Small cemetery on hill, sparse growth, dirt
chapel at one end of the mass grave
blizzard froze the bodies where they fell
limbs askew, like a piece by Picasso

Chapel at one end of mass grave, enclosed
in chain link, hung with fading ribbons
limbs askew like a piece by Picasso
piled into a wagon, pulled up the hill

In chain link hung with faded ribbons
we walk with heads bowed over those
piled into wagons and pulled up the hill
from where the soldiers gunned them down

we walk on dirt with heads bowed
to the tiny museum below the hill
near where soldiers gunned them down
young woman sits with baby and coffee can

for donations to the museum below the hill
faded tributes to AIM and the Spirit of ’73
the young woman sits with a coffee can
and baby, lives there with her husband

Faded tributes to AIM, the spirits of ’73
her father, a warrior then, bought the museum
where she lives with her baby and husband
darkness on the reservation still

Her father, a warrior then, bought the museum
painted long ago, coffee can for donations
darkness on the reservation still, the moon
moving slowly left across the sun.


—Honorable Mention, the Steve Kowit Poetry Prize 2017; first published in the San Diego Poetry Annual 2017-18 (Garden Oak Press, February 2018) and appears here with permissions from the publisher and the poet


SHJ Issue 18
Spring 2018

Dick Eiden

is a poet, retired attorney, and lifelong political activist for peace and social justice who came of age in the Sixties. Born in California, he grew up in Pomona and became involved in the anti-war and civil rights movements as an undergraduate student at Mt. San Antonio College in 1965. His activism increased during his years at UC Santa Barbara, where he received a BA in Political Science in 1967, and at UCLA, where he received his JD in 1970.

His career as a lawyer began with specializing in draft-related issues, and he was a founding member of the Santa Barbara Legal Collective, which served “the movement,” students, Latinos, the local United Farm Workers, and other organizations. During the occupation of Wounded Knee in 1973, he worked for the American Indian Movement (AIM) in South Dakota. Throughout the 1970s, he was active in the National Lawyers Guild, fighting to protect the First Amendment and other human rights. In the 1980s, he represented activists in criminal and deportation cases, primarily in Los Angeles.

He and his family moved from Los Angeles to Vista in 1989, where he founded the North County Forum (NCF) in 1997, an umbrella organization designed to bring liberals and progressives together, to “promote progressive causes, education, and culture in North San Diego County.” The group’s annual Letters to the Editor Awards Night, held in the latter part of January, has become a major event. NCF’s Letters to the Editors Committee writes, and six voice actors perform, an entertaining script comprised primarily of letters published the previous year in the North County Times.

In 2001, Eiden founded Sunset Poets of Oceanside, which he has facilitated and emceed since. The monthly meetings feature one or more poets and an open mic. His own poems have been published locally, including in several editions of the San Diego Poetry Annual. He has three grown children (and one grandchild) with his wife, Kathleen Cannon, and he’s writing a memoir about his life as a lawyer for rebels, entitled Go Into Banking Instead.

“...we have been born here to witness and celebrate. We wonder at our purpose for living. Our purpose
is to perceive the fantastic. Why have a universe if there is no audience?” — Ray Bradbury