REMEMBERING MERRIWHETHER LEWIS
A legend in his time, now an unsung hero
who had a treacherous adventure recorded
under bone-crunching conditions while
searching for the Northwest Passage.
With a Bunyanesque body, backbone of tensile steel
he explored wilderness with the stealth of a mountain
lion, discovering the Yellowstone and the Great Falls.
Barefoot, even in snow, he trekked across the
Bitterroot Mountains on the Lolo Trail to the Quamash Flats.
Alert as a Samurai, blunderbuss at his side, confronted
rattlesnakes and grizzlies, calmly stood his ground
with marauding tribes of the Blackfeet, Sioux and Arikiri.
An evenhanded leader, imposed the discipline of the lash
(50 laid on hard), yet tenderly nursed his men's bruised
and blistered feet torn apart by prickly pears on the plains.
A master of the sextant and chronometer he clawed
his way from the Missouri to the Pacific and back again.
Rewarded with the Governorship of Louisiana, he found
himself victimized by Machiavellian political pythons
and wily moneymongers.
Deeply in debt and unable to deal with the insouciant
charms of a lady he desired, his mood sank like his
pirogue with a hole in the bow sinking slowly in
the vortex of a whirlpool to its watery grave.
Merriwhether thrived on the perilous maelstrom of
life in the wild, but couldn't conform to the
twiddle-twaddle of the conventional world.
Bleary-eyed and forlorn, alone in an unkempt
furnished room, in a drunken and laudanum induced
reverie he once again heard the larruping frogs and
saw the spume of his canoe paddle flashing like silver,
serenely visualizing throngs of sundazzled sunflowers
pirouetting along the shore like can-can dancers as
he reached for the weapon that had served him
so well, taking his life with a shattering blast.
Milton P. Ehrlich