Published on Academy of American Poets (https://poets.org)


In Pine, Arizona

1.

On a picnic table, in Pine, Arizona, 
a Bear, Makwa, sits and meditates. 
Occasionally, with menu in hand, 
he scans the reddish-brown landscape 
          that’s
partially draped with snow, a climatic 
rarity. But it’s heavenly here, he resolves, 
adding, inittawetti-menwi-bematesiyani
that's why I'm feeling good. After 
          ordering 
New York steak, jumbo prawns
and woodland mushrooms, a bottle 
of cabernet is placed on a cedar deer 
rack. While dipping the sopapilla 
          in 
honey, he reads the wine called
Zah was highly coveted by Bonnie, 
the 1930s gangster. The ruse evokes
a smile. Then, on a cart that’s 
          wheeled 
in beside him, a miniature cast-iron
stove with its legs embedded 
in ice crackles as two potatoes 
revolve and bake. From a silver 
          radio 
with a wobbly antennae, 
a saxophone is heard faintly, 
with Mayall singing “Going 
Back to California.” Nostalgia, 
          laments
the D. J. Epic, graphic 
nostalgia.    

2.

Soon, sparks fly from the microwave’s 
slender chimney, reminding him of the time 
he gave Black Eagle Childs a tune called 
Askotewi-Ttimani, Fire Boat. Akin 
          to
lovers separated by a wide river, 
whispers Nemese, Fish, the butter’s 
fragrance is corn tassel sweet 
and the sour cream senses earth 
          tremors 
akameeki, overseas. Combustible
emotions, you could say, through 
supernatural alchemy. And per 
etiquette, the handles of your
          silverware 
are designed with turquoise 
and corral inlay. “Say, I seem to 
have forgotten,” he asks, “but what
do they mean?”           

3.

From a nearby table, a Mawewa, Wolf 
politely intercedes: If I may answer
for Mayrin—once the shell-shock subsides, 
you'll recall the East is a star and the South 
          is 
a galaxy falling as snow into a dish that 
breathes, especially at noon; and the West 
is a door of purple seashells, with the North 
being a lodge made with pillars of swirling
          ice 
quills. Natawinoni, Medicine. These gifts 
will keep apoplectic reactions at bay. 
Wekone? What?” More so, if by birth 
your heart is exposed. “Jesus Christ! 
          How’d 
you know?” Nanotti-meko-Makwa-webi-
nenekenetama-wettikweni, Eventually, 
Bear begins reflecting on where he’d 
been. In Tanzania and Mozambique, 
          rows 
of white string that guided land 
mine-detecting rats over dry, ochre-
colored fields resembled gardens 
being prepped for spring 
          planting 
back home. Beautiful, 
speckled atamina, corn. 

4.

Remarkably, rats can also detect TB, 
said the Wakotte, Fox. “They can?”   
Moreover, in the desert where you 
visited, a waterfall came back to life 
          from 
a single raindrop, the one that travelled
with you on a Spider’s web, floating 
in the wind over distant mountains, 
oceans and clouds. Manetwi-kiyaki-
          niittawiyakwi
There’s still much we have to do. 
Because the Earth beneath our feet, 
Kokomesenana, our Grandmother, 
struggles to heal herself. Thus, 
          in 
the moment before the Northern 
Lights glow fiery red, arcing over 
us en route to Antarctica, you’ll ask 
in a solemn, musical voice that 
          guidance 
be granted in perpetuum to the culture,
language, religion and history of your 
children and their grandchildren. 
He was contemplating all of this 
          when
an old, toothless gentleman in 
a large suitcoat approached 
and asked, are you Randolph Scott? 
After saying “Yes,” an armor-clad 
         horse 
became audibly restless at the four
dragon-headed dogs staring at three 
galley sails billowing on the hinterland 
horizon.

Credit


Copyright © 2020 by Ray Young Bear. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 20, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem


“The poem ‘In Pine, Arizona’ was composed two years ago after seeing a photograph of a desert in a wintry scene on the internet. The snowfall may have been unseasonal, as I recall, and with climate change in the news, it reminded me of my grandmother’s reminders of how powerful the weather could be. Prophetically, she also said once our language, culture, spirituality, and history are lost, it could hail without end. Moreover, animals once thought extinct would return. This poem conceptualizes how things would be for the earth-reading animals regarding the pending change for humankind.”

Ray Young Bear

Author


Ray Young Bear

In 1950, Ray Young Bear was born in the Meskwaki Tribal Settlement near Tama, Iowa

Date Published: 2020-04-20

Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/pine-arizona