Of the 36 poems
Lane by Mark
Doty, nine of them are entitled “Deep Lane.” So if you asked me which poem
is the title poem for the collection, I would have to say, “Yes.”
Perhaps all nine
are. Perhaps all nine should be.
As I read these
poems, certain words came coming to kind. Quiet. Beauty. Defined. Precise.
something of the odd-man-out here.
some time in the Texas Hill Country west of San Antonio, I’ve heard a few of
the stories about the battles between bands of the Comanches and Kiowas and the
Spanish, Anglo and immigrant settlers in the 1860s and 1870s. The stories are gruesome
and harrowing, and neither side had a lock on viciousness and terror.
In some cases,
the Indians would take kidnapped women and children back to their tribes. (If
you’ve seen the 1990 Kevin Costner movie “Dances with Wolves,” actress
Mary McDonnell plays a woman who was kidnapped as a child and raised as a
member of the Indian tribe.) Some of those women and children were rescued or
traded to U.S. authorities, and returned (if possible) to their families. But
the children and adults who came back were often fundamentally changed from
those who had been kidnapped.
It is Texas in
1870, a post-Civil War society that has both Union troops still in occupation
over former Confederates and attempting to deal with frontier Indian attacks.
Jefferson Kyle Kidd is 72 years old. He’s experienced three wars – the War of
1812, the Mexican-American War, and the Civil War. A former newspaper publisher
in San Antonio but bankrupted by the collapse of the Confederacy, he ekes out a
living by traveling from small town to small town in Texas, and reading
newspapers – the news of the world – in meeting hall performances.
He is in Wichita
Falls on the Oklahoma border when he’s asked to return a 10-year-old child who
has been captive with the Kiowas. She had been taken when she was six, with her
parents and sister murdered by a Comanche raiding party, and then swapped or
given to a Kiowa tribe. She speaks no English, considers herself a Kiowa, and
is terrified to find herself in an Anglo society. Kidd is asked to return her
to an aunt and uncle who live near San Antonio. It will be a long and likely
dangerous trip, especially when they reach the Hill Country.
As they travel,
we learn more of Kidd’s history, and his hope that his two daughters and their
families, living in Georgia, will eventually join him in Texas. He’s a widower
who still mourns his wife. We learn more of the girl, Johanna Leonberger, but
what we learn is her Kiowa understanding of the world. The two must learn to
talk with each other, trust each other, and depend upon each other for their
The News of the World is a relatively short novel (209 pages)
but a big story. While it is a tale right out of Texas history, it is also a
moving account of two people who couldn’t be more different having to cross
cultures, ages, and personal histories to survive together.
Top photograph: A scene in San Antonio
After Nehemiah 3:1-32 and Ephesians
sweat. I see them
build this wall
an act of
worship, the same
as the invisible