Departure

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I wander along

a river path,

cross an old pasture

under a forest of cottonwoods –

a sage garden to my right.

The road turns to red dirt.

I feel a sense of peace

but only for a moment –

He spoils the day.

in rampant fury,

hacking away

roots

with a vengeance

that sends

chills

through my body.

Making the choice

for both of us,

I depart in sorrow

and self defense.

This man

who cannot speak

the truth

about what troubles him

blames me instead.

After all, I’m a woman –

A five thousand year old

patriarchal myth

rears its ugly head.

A genuine exchange

is impossible.

In this story

Reciprocity is dead.

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Blessing House

In the very beginning

my friend buried

elk antler and chert,

hair from two bears

a potshard –

Black sage centered,

the others

imbedded in mud walls –

a gift made in absentia

she knew just what to do.

By marking four

cardinal directions these

sacred objects set clear intentions,

directions,

for a woman

forever bound

to Nature,

always a daughter,

no matter how old.

After I came

Red earth swelled the ground

under my feet as the straw

bricks rose one by one.

One day I buried

bear root under a bush

in a nearby wild sage garden

under a canopy of cottonwoods

with a prayer for Life.

The owls came at night

when the Great Bear

rose in the Northern sky

haunted chamisa sunrises,

resonant whoos

raised the hair

on my skin –

but I felt strange comfort too.

Owls are messengers from the Beyond.

Two hovered in bare branches,

The day I moved…

Blood turned to ice.

I thought they were saying goodbye.

After the curtain fell

I didn’t think

I would return – but today,

five months later

I am setting tenuous intentions

to inhabit this adobe structure –

re-weaving a broken willow wreath

in and out of time.

It is my earnest hope

that I can

find health,

peace for body and soul,

a sense of purpose

and belonging

within sand textured walls –

Mexican tiles tell stories

to children whose fierce colors

encourage flames and truth

without delusion or shame.

I sing to underground water

asking Avanyu to bring us rain.

When I walk under

Heart shaped cottonwoods

who bend

emerald green at first light,

I feel a sense that I am loved.

Although I feel unease

with so much open space

inside mud walls,

distrust of circumstances

beyond my control,

I take this courageous risk

wondering if moving is a challenge

to grow closer to a cosmos

hidden within my bones?

Let empty space surround me,

ask what more I might learn

from the powers of air –

especially regarding flexibility.

Can I erect the precious boundaries I need,

that will determine if I stay or go?

Will my ideas be honored by another

on whose land I live?

I am a self – directed woman

Respect requires reciprocity

not rigid rules

from one who would own…

Last week I found the owl feather

We placed her solemnly

in a cedar Nicho.

– Guardian of the east.

Owl speaks to what will be

But so far her message is veiled.

I plan desert grasses-

wildflower seeds, unearth tumbleweed,

dig Datura and Sage, sacred plants

blessing the land with power through Love.

I wait for them to speak through intoxicating scent.

Blue corn seed cast invokes the Corn Mother…

While broadcasting precious water

I chant prayers to Plant Mothers

to strengthen me in body and soul.

I cannot make this shift alone.

Yesterday I picked black sage

from the lowland just beyond the walls.

I will burn it in the house,

sanctifying each room with medicine –

Natures Grace.

Hummingbirds grace the Russian Olive

Lizards race over adobe walls,

freeze instantly in their tracks

to regard me with piercing eyes.

I converse with each turned head,

welcoming these deniziens of the desert

where wily sagebrush lizards find home.

This Tree is Bent Too Low

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A long and winding road…

 

I see an old woman

in the mirror

and think of the troubled years

I spent mothering children

who keep the fires of blame

fanned through mid life.

 

 

They will not change now.

 

 

Indifferent

or hostile, both are

still stuck in “mother hate”

endemic to a culture

that judges women

unworthy.

 

They will not change now.

 

That I did the best I could

running on empty

wasn’t good enough.

Past and present meet

an ever dimming future.

 

They will not change now.

 

All that’s left is to accept what is –

 

They will not change now.

 

 

 

Working notes:

 

Another Mother’s Day dawns – last night raccoons dug up my seeds – uprooting the dead along with tender roots. Will I bother to replant? Or will I leave hope untended?

 

I think of the young mothers who, like me, were children having children (in part) to be loved?

 

Yet how tenderly we cared for these “seeds of becoming” that grew from our bodies, in spite of mistakes and shortcomings.

 

We loved fiercely and were turned away…

 

I also think of the global slaughter of trees…

Burial in Indian Country

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A small skull

was in the bag

we carried down the mountain –

the body severed

from its head –

“forgotten”

and left behind.

No, I cry wounded

beyond comprehension,

insisting we return

the parts to the whole

if only for burial.

We climbed the mountain

three times in all

my reluctant partner

choosing trance and lead.

I claimed the body,

wept for what could have been,

mourned the dead –

in Indian country…

 

Working notes:

 

Sometimes it is necessary to put skin and bones, by way of words, on a dream that is too disturbing to put aside.

 

The severing of our heads from our bodies is the root of the split that allows us to continue to survive in modern culture. We intellectualize, rationalize, use logic, embrace denial – anything to gain distance from the one whose loss we mourn – albeit unconsciously – the death of our sensing, feeling, body – the wild animal within us – the one who has access to the compassionate, loving self – the bridge to our own survival and that of the planet upon which we depend upon for life.

Four Worlds

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Above: a Kaye

 

They came from

Life giving Waters,

emerging from a Lake

at the Beginning of time.

Avanyu –

Serpent,

Spirit of the River

pecked into stone

or painted

on canyon walls

embodies their story.

 

The Tewa settled above

the Great River Banks.

Roaring water flowed

through tributaries

mountain gorges.

The People gave thanks.

Water meant Life.

Each village was the center

of the Tewa’s First world.

 

Bound together by

Women who tended

holy household shrines,

prayed for rain,

created fires,

gathered seed,

ground food,

grew babies,

dug clay to shape

earthen pots.

This was the Second world

of the Tewa.

 

In the hills the men

hunted animals

for food and skins.

Both women and men

ploughed fields,

cultivating maize

as the Corn Mother

blessed them and

instructed them to do.

 

Here too were Kayes

Basalt stones shaped by

mortar and cupules

that marked

cardinal directions,

and burial middens.

Tewa communed with the dead.

Ancestors traversed Four Worlds

before returning to still waters.

 

The men danced prayers

bore holes in stone faces.

The women pounded

rock to awaken

the spirits at sunrise –

prepared medicines

and prayers in

this Third world

of the Tewa.

 

Far beyond the hills,

the men prayed for rain…

Four sacred mountains

held each village

in Earth’s peaceful embrace.

Earth, wind, fire and water,

North, east, south and west –

Four elements and directions

guided the People

in this Fourth world

of the Tewa.

 

Postscript:

 

This poem was written as a result of visiting a few of the pueblo ruins in this area, reflecting upon the meaning behind what I experienced especially with respect to the stones I encountered, going to the Pueblo dances, and before doing some research on the stones about which I knew nothing.

 

Kayes, the Tewa word for certain basalt stones helped me to enter the world of the Tewa on a deeper level when I discovered that their primary purpose was to help the people communicate with the spirit world… According to the Tewa the Kayes were places where offerings were made and the rock itself was also pounded to attract the attention of the spirits. The resulting, usually round, depressions are called cupules by anthropologists and they can be found on both the top and sides of certain rocks around the ruins. Sometimes these stones also had mortars for grinding and some sources suggest that women gathered in these places to prepare medicines. It is said that at certain times of the year the Tewa continue to gather at these stones for ceremony.

Mayflowers long for Rain

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I fling wildflower seeds to the wind

with my usual prayer

to the frog gods and Avanyu

Spirit of the River…

 

Mayflowers long for rain.

 

A great horned owl calls

from under a cottonwood tree,

drops a speckled feather,

haunts the night with her song.

 

Mayflowers long for rain.

 

Under a protected porch

a cluster of green leaves floats

a bouquet of lemony blossoms

gifting the afternoon sun.

 

Mayflowers long for rain.

 

The advent of the dancing May

marks a seasonal turning

not to be ignored.

Even in harsh white light

the song of Earth’s renewal

presents herself :

 

a man sprinkling “weeds”

with ground water,

a cacophony of birds,

wild mustard eating rabbits,

crackling roots,

vibrating tree trunks,

sage leaves,

plump buds,

windblown seeds.

 

Wildflowers long for rain.