Japanese Garden

                                  After a stone and sand exhibit in Portland 

A man is leading the animals.

A man is leading the ones that float on water.

A man is leading the winged ones.

A man is leading the ones that swim.

 

Maybe he’s St. Francis,

the long-robed man who calls the animals to him now.

Maybe he’s Noah,

the one who gathered the animals.

and sailed away with them, they say.

Who was there to witness their leaving?

To sing a song for their journey?

 

Where are they going?

their faces turned northward,

taking their songs,

taking their maps,

taking their languages.

Are they leaving with joy in their hearts?

Or is sadness eating at their star hearts?

In the wake of their leaving a small wind

stirs the empty hands of the tree branches above us.

 

What I will remember—

footsteps left like dinosaur tracks

pressed between Sky Woman and Mother Earth.

When they leave,

I will weep.

I will weep.

 

 


 

Japanese Daa'ak'e yázhídi LTohe

More by Laura Tohe

Female Rain

Female Rain

           Dancing from the south

                 cloudy cool and gray

                      pregnant with rainchild

 

At dawn she gives birth to a gentle mist

flowers bow with wet sustenance

                   luminescence all around

 


 

Níłtsą́ Bi’áád

 

Níłtsą́ bi’áád

             Shá’di’ááhdę́ę’go dah naaldogo’ alzhish

                     k’ós hazlį́į́’

                          honeezk’ází

                              níltsą́ bi’áád bitázhool bijooltsą́

                                  áádóó níłtsą́ bi’áád biyázhí bídii’na’

 

Naaniiniiłkaahgo

            níłtsą́ bi’áád biyázhí hazlį́į́’

                   ch’íl látah hózhóón dahtoo’bee ’ałch’į’ háazhah

                        áádóó nihik’inizdidláád

Blue Impala

That time I stole a blue Impala in Flagstaff

   the first year they made those automatic windows, you know?

   I was sixteen and I cruising down the highway 

 

Hot on the trail to Albuquerque 

I was hungry

             and I was howling, man.

It was like stealing the best horse in the herd.

Returning

I’ve been somewhere. My mind struggles to remember the cornfields and fruit trees blooming like a young woman’s body and the place where my brothers built the shade house for our sister’s marriage beneath the slender moon where my mother wove her last blanket.

I’ve walked this empty road before in the month of the big harvest when The People left the canyon with wagons loaded with peaches and corn to take to relatives and to trade with our neighbors who live on the high windy mesas.  

I am returning to the red rocks that once cradled us and from whose arms we were torn when death marched in, surrounded us, and slaughtered everything that we loved.

I am the kidnapped one and survived to escape the enemy who feared our graceful lives because we know that Beauty cannot be captured with words or jails.

I hold nothing in my hands except the lines that tell my fate. I long for the comfort of my mother’s stories, cooking, anything.  How she roasted mutton ribs crispy and salty.  Her stories of my Amazon grandmothers who claimed and discarded husbands like ashes.

Dust clouds billow beneath my bare feet. The ground feels familiar, and I walk easily on the sand that flows from the mouth of the canyon.  A crow glides a new pattern in the wake of grief’s echoes.

Thick black ants watch Earth-Surface child return. “Ahhh,” they say, “leave this one alone; she is returning from that place

Related Poems

An Offering

Animals come down through stars
to reach the valley. A coyote with
its nose pressed in a rabbit hole.
Two Sandhill cranes as tall as rain,
and listening north. And when a cougar
screams its human scream, I’m suddenly
a child again, awake, the parched air
raked by drumfire blasts, window panes
all gleam and vast, animals angling
through ripe alfalfa fields. My grandmother
holding me to the thunder-headed sky
as if I were an offering. Saying, There,
see how meager we are made. How our
bones ring with fury and light.

Sci-Fi

There will be no edges, but curves.
Clean lines pointing only forward.

History, with its hard spine & dog-eared
Corners, will be replaced with nuance,

Just like the dinosaurs gave way
To mounds and mounds of ice.

Women will still be women, but
The distinction will be empty. Sex,

Having outlived every threat, will gratify
Only the mind, which is where it will exist.

For kicks, we'll dance for ourselves
Before mirrors studded with golden bulbs.

The oldest among us will recognize that glow—
But the word sun will have been re-assigned

To a Standard Uranium-Neutralizing device
Found in households and nursing homes.

And yes, we'll live to be much older, thanks
To popular consensus. Weightless, unhinged,

Eons from even our own moon, we'll drift
In the haze of space, which will be, once

And for all, scrutable and safe.

Garden Homage

Three windows are at work here, sophisticated
spaces against the day, against the light.
The sky looks as if it has been added later
to a glimpsed world as nobody saw it.

Small gaps of awkwardness between overlapping leaves
bring their time to us, as we our time
to them. The hand alone is amazing,
the skull and the owner’s hand holding it,

together on a page for fifty years,
with the earliest smile. A rope vase
of flowers returns the angels
to the ground, that still beautiful brown.