Red Language

If I heard the words you once used
in our wild place rough with scrub roses
in sand—if your words came back
gray and kind as mild winter
believe me I’d still understand
offer my own red language
my tongue to your tongue
so we recall what we once said
that made us live
                        made us choose to live

Peace Path

This path our people walked
one hundred two hundred              endless years
since the tall grass opened for us
and we breathed the incense that sun on prairie
                                                             offers to sky

Peace offering with each breath
each footstep           out of woods
to grasslands plotted with history
removal   remediation                     restoration

Peace flag of fringed prairie orchid
green glow within white froth
calling a moth who nightly
seeks the now-rare scent                 invisible to us

invisible history of this place
where our great-grandfather         a boy
beside two priests and 900 warriors
gaze intent in an 1870 photo         
                                                             his garments white as orchids

Peace flag                                           white banner with red cross
crowned with thorns                       held by a boy              
at the elbow of a priest   
beside Ojibwe warriors                   beside Dakota warriors

Peace offered after smoke and dance
and Ojibwe gifts of elaborate beaded garments
thrown back in refusal  
by Dakota Warriors                         torn with grief  
                                                             since their brother’s murder

This is the path our people ran
through white flags of prairie plants
Ojibwe calling Dakota back
to sign one last and unbroken treaty

Peace offering with each breath
each footstep                out of woods
to grasslands plotted with history
removal   remediation                     restoration

Two Dakota    held up as great men
humbled themselves
to an offer of peace
before a long walk south

before our people entered the trail
walking west and north
                                                           where you walk now
where we seek the source

the now-rare scent
invisible as history
history the tall grass opens for us
                                                            Breathe the incense of sun on prairie
                                                            Offer peace to the sky

 

Dear Demeter—Dear Earth (where Hades is the non-custodial parent)

First     in the dark world of a crying child 
he will think you ruined his offspring

He’ll say “milk spoilt” and “mama’s boy”

Soon enough     he will hate you and hold hostage 
all the love he can wring from
a small     terrified     being 

Then     when the shining child smiles
and the damned underworld is seen
dank and relentless    for what it is
he will see that you invented fire

He will see you kindled     with your body
an illuminated being         a soul devoted
a bright likeness of the father     

He will love you    He will bless you

He will try to         make you His

Wild Turkey

Not the bottle
Not the burn on the lips
lit throat glow
Not even wild     really
but a small-town bird
whose burgundy throat
shimmers like nothing ever
A huge bird    impressive
who lurches and stalks me
window to window in this
desert retreat
What does he want?
Clearly he is lonely
pecks his reflection
and speaks to it in a low gubble
(not gobble) gubbles so tenderly
Soon as I think of him     his eye hits on me
We have watched each other for days
His shifting colors fascinate me  his territorial strut
But it is his bald and blue-red head
his old man habits and gait that move me
If I even think of him        I taste whiskey
Drunk on solitude    I’d talk to anybody
I try his language on my lips
His keen response burns     like shame