Wednesday, October 31, 2012

That is For Knowing the Difference

I've been accused of just “getting what I wanted,”
And then moving on down the line.
Funny thing is, I—I never knew what I wanted,
So I’m not sure if I ever have gotten it.
Kind of like the old man and old woman
Sitting out on the front porch swing.
The woman slaps the man right out of his sneakers
And tells him it’s for the 40 years of bad sex.
The man gets back up, and into the swing,
And after thinking it over a bit,
Slaps the old woman right out of her loafers,
And says, “That— is for knowing the difference.”

-jenn long

Prostrate Cancer

Most women eventually turn into their mothers.
I'm becoming my dad,
To the point of developing prostrate cancer,
And I think I know it's cause.
For I've fallen supine, too many occasions,
Worshiping idols and graven images—
Things like diplomas and retirement packages.
Yes I've prayed to a god who is dead,
And one entirely made of pulp,
I've followed the prophets so false.

But now I will say that my father's house,
Builded by leaving the crowds' conformity,
I now seek as a comfort and stay.
And I will lie slain in the spirit of the legacy
Of my sons' memories of me loving them more,
And of me receiving their love unconditionally,
In whatever ways that they are able to offer it.

-jenn long

Tuesday, October 30, 2012


It seems as if
I’m on a journeyed walkabout,
Only meant to enjoy the earth
And the beauty of its natural flow.
And sometimes
The ebb catches me breathless,
 Doubles me over in suffering,
Until I really don’t know
And all of the philosophies fail me,
All the trite sayings of friends,
And well-intentioned theologian wanna-bees
Go sailing right out the windows of my soul
With my tears,
And my purpose,
And I am left comfortless

-jenn long

Monday, October 29, 2012

Fake Smiles

I don't want any of your old fake smiles,
Glaring out fluorescently.
I don't want the shallow
Meaningless words
You carelessly flip to me.
And while you're at it,
Why don't you keep
Those degrading ideas to yourself.
See, the ball is in my court now

-jenn long

A Smile Upside-down

A few hollow souls
Gathered in the cathedral.
The ceiling vaulted over them
With an inversely proported gloom,
Which delved beneath the depths of hope
To abysmal desperation,
Mocking their lives and mores,
And the sweep of an empty tomb.

But we all end up, sooner or later,
Huddled and praying to the unknown god,
Un-shouldering the yoke of life and its baggage
In a coffin that seems very full.

-jenn long

You Don't Want To See What I'm Writing Today

Oh! You don’t want to see what I’m writing today!
You don’t want to see how far I've fallen!
You don’t want to go on this journey with me,
To the belly of the great beast, indeed.
You don’t want to go all Ahab on me,
Dredging up fables and worse, non-fiction!
You don’t need to be reminded of the hard to bear sayings
Or the great sibling rivalries.

You don’t want to understand,
Why the second born gets the blessing.
You can’t handle the truth my friend
Of why the first born dies,
Why the plague only affects
His or her delicate sensibilities,
Why Cain killed Abel,
And why still today
It’s “Death to Abilities!”

No. You don’t want to read what I write today.
Your heart will hurt, your morals won’t stand
For the crumbling away of the romantic cloudiness
And the harsh glare of the age old truth.
But if you would seek out the old ways first,
You will find yourself back to the future,
And completely unwound from every belief
That binds you back to the lies.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Will We Ever

When will I see you
And all that you are to me
When will you see me
And see through this heart of mine
Will we ever
Will we ever
Be who we truly are?

When will the stars shine
And line up enchanted
When will my heart chime
Ringing in the love light
Will we ever
Will we ever
Be who we truly are?

There is a place of gold
Deep in the heart of
Us but get on past that
Down to the hard core
A place where pure light
Shines hotter and  hotter
There is so much more

So let me love you
Let me let you
Love me like only you can
Will we ever
Will we ever
Be who we truly are?

I Think I Was Smarter Back Then

I used to get the grimiest notes in my locker—
Looked like they’d been carried around for a year in someone’s shoe.
They smelled of the sweat of a hundred camels
And a soured, cabbage roll.
I would look both ways down the hall
To see thirty boys all staring my way,
All waiting to see what kind of reaction
The anonymous letter would cause.

And somehow, even though I was young,
I had the presence of mind to know,
That someone, whether, it was a joke or not,
Had poured his heart out to me.
And so I would put the card to my nose
And take a whiff, as if it were roses,
And sigh a big, melodramatic sigh,
And hold the note to my breast.
Then waltz off to my next class,
Like Ginger Rogers with an imaginary Fred,
To try and let them teach me something worthwhile.

-jenn long

Thursday, October 25, 2012


He always called me “Poundcake.”
I don't know exactly why.
He said it had something to do with nutmeg,
And the way my lip-gloss tasted.
He'd get a far away glaze in his eyes,
As I ground down into the flour sack.
Then he'd shake while I sifted,
"Don't move! Don't make a sound!" I’d whisper.

A pint's a pound the world around,
And a pound's a pint, when it's out of sight.

-jenn long

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Fountain of Youth

Your Kiss takes me
Reeling to the ends
Of the Earth—
Challenges the facts
Of my death,
Of my birth—
Speak Renowned Oracle,
Of the absence of sin,
For tasting your waters
Makes me Seventeen Again.

-jenn long

Monday, October 22, 2012

Love Thy Neighbor

the continuing saga...

Love Thy Neighbor

(…the names have been changed, to protect the innocent, and the guilty…)

My neighbors all thought I was nuts
When I moved in a year ago
But now that they’ve had time to see
They know I’m nuts
And like me anyway
So it’s all good


A neighbor friend came to my door this morning,
And I could tell by the black pin pupils,
That the pain killers and the uppers
Had all kicked in at once.
She was in the middle
Of a very interesting
Paranoid delusion—
Telling me how the world
Was stealing her stuff, or hiding it,
And plotting against her.

“Funny,” I thought, “I don’t need drugs
To be in this same boat with her,
Paddling along life’s stream.”

She wanted me to get in the middle,
And she orchestrated her ideas so skillfully,
That I almost considered it.

But, I finally reneged,
Telling her,

“I’m terminal, girl.
Been diagnosed as a hopeless case.
Untouchable really.
So I have declared
That from now on,
I float peacefully,
Using what energy I have left
To love those who cry out
As I do for peace, and more of it.”


So my neighbors asked me to a fish fry.
I went, and they helped me a big ole plate,
And the food was delicious, all of it!
But the interrogation that followed
Went a little something like this:

“So, you’re writing some type of ‘poetry’ book?”

“Yes, I’m trying,” I mumbled with a mouth full of crappie.

“What kind of poetry is it you write?”

“Is it dirty?” asked another.

“Well, you guys probably wouldn’t think so,” I said, “But some people might.” I thought vaguely about some previous religious acquaintances.

“The cole slaw might be a little dry.”

“I like mine exactly like this,” I said.

“Yeah, it is a little dry.”

“Well, tomorrow it will be just right.”


Always so grumpy to my face,
And I have never known why,
But, on your porch at dusk, I catch you—napping.
I watch you there for a calm minute.
Your sixth sense tells you someone is looking.
You wake, flustered. I smell the bourbon.
And it is in this state that you smile at me
And stammer,
“I want to clone you.”

The next day he was grumpy at me again.
I just nodded and smiled.
“Uh huh…”

It wasn't a healthy combination.
He liked presents,
And she was a notorious indian giver.
He needed to be swallowed whole,
And she preferred to chew.
He was terrified of abandonment,
And his deep seated insecurities
Drove him to chase insatiably,
While her fear of being engulfed
Pushed her to run endlessly after nothing.


So they come into the little cafe,
The waitress knows them well.
"Shirley, you want eggs, or oatmeal again this mornin?"
Her husband answers for her,
"She's got her teeth, today,
So it kind of opens up the choices, ya know?"
The woman glowers as she pours her own dang cup of coffee.
"Everybody knows he doesn't carry any money,
I ought to just leave him here," she said.

-jenn long

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Tangled Tango

You’re not alone
In this strange world—
So convoluted,
And twisted up.
Untangle here
In my arms.
It’s alright.
And, yes, tomorrow
The earth will turn.
It will look like the sun
Is coming up,
It’s not.

It’s just that the earth
Is still spinning, after all—
Making us dizzier
And more tangled up.

But a tangled tango can be fun!
And dancing can sometimes amazingly
Untangle everything else.

-jenn long

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


My love presses like wine for you—
Oil crushed out, purest virgin.
I sweat great tears of blood for you,
All mingled there together.
And I can be a diligent friend,
Or a frightening lover,
But you must need know,
I walk alone,
My heart, in the Great Spirit Wind.

. . . . . . . . . . .

The wind pushed back my hood, and ran
His fingers through my hair,
Whooshed up my shirt with both hands,
Titillated my core,
Blew up my pant legs,
Chilling me,
Shivering all my timbers,
Then left me,
Because I was a bore.

-jenn long

Monday, October 15, 2012

Rainbow Promise

We sleep together.
I nap at twilight,
As you turn,
Still dreaming in the early morn.
Only the letters of your name I see,
For I have never beheld your face.
Terrified to pronounce their sounds,
The darkness of their type comes straight
From the hammered bracelet
Of the asteroid belt,
And the purest ink
Of Neptune’s dark rings.
But the pressure on my bodice is real.
The bias of your love, I feel,
As light pierces the dark water,
And forces the rainbow.

-jenn long

Rah! Rah! Rah!

Some people are down
With cheerleader types,
Thinking us shallow
And empty headed.
But, everyone of us
Needs a shout out
From the sidelines of our days
At some point in our lives,
Even if it comes
As just a whisper or a nod.
And so, if you'll give me
A little room now,
I'll be happy to show you
My high kick.

-jenn long

Great Mother

I am mother
Hear me whisper
As your feet tromp over and play
I am mother
Hear me singing
As you walk on me today

I am mother
Passively spinning
I carry you to your destiny
Another place in the far universe
Awaits your arrival
You in me

So walk as far as day will take you
Rest as deep as night will allow
But however far you think you’re going
I am the one that moves you now

-jenn long

Southern Prometheus

He stood in the rushing waters,
Hands full of river sand.
It glistened wet and glittered
In the disc’s radiant wheel.
He flung it,
And nations and histories
Were quickened and created.
He pushed evolution along its path
With the touch of his life surreal.

The fates cut burlap
And tossed them in the eddies.
He took some, re-threaded them,
Weaving the mighty tales.
“But,” he told me sweetly,
“The best lives we’ll make here,
Right out of cotton.”
It bloomed and blew on the river bank,
Bale after pop-corned bale.

-jenn long

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Little Secrets

I’m starved to hear more of your little secrets,
But not sure if I can handle them.
I can’t even make out exactly what you said.
Your lips are too close to my ear.
The virgin windows of my sheltered house are shattered,
And the timbers are all but sheared.

But please, tell me that one, just one more time,
About the eggplant, and the roses,
The things that make you suck your thumb,
The secret sign language of the deaf,
And I will try to hold up to it,
And try to keep it to myself.

-jenn long

White Shoes After Labor Day Kind of Day

Gasp! Such an egregious sin!
I wore my white sandals to the market
After Labor Day, and long before Easter!
The good ladies of the town,
The ones discriminating in the Dairy Section
Over which yogurt was officially “Greek,”
Looked down on my ill-shod feet,
But forced their condescending smiles.
I saw them again in Frozen Foods,
Their eyes cut down, as if to say,
“Are you still wearing those very wrong shoes?”
“Yes, and I’ll wear them again tomorrow,”
My smirk answers back, “For they are very comfortable,
And my toes approve.”

-jenn long

Markawasi Honey

The word predated the Incan civilization.
The ancient concept bulged and overshadowed
The shallow trappings of many generations.
Forgotten wisdom still seeps from the craggy heights,
Filtering pure to the ones who solely
Pilgrim to the site and touch the holes,
And bring their fingers to their mouths
To taste Markowasi honey.

-jenn long

When a Brighter Star Than Mine

When a brighter star than mine eclipses
The shine you have for me,
When the glory dust loses all it's shimmer,
When the glimmer in your eyes mists
For the mystery of another,
Just promise, sometimes, that you'll think of me.

-jenn long

The Only Things I Really Know

 The only things I really know
Are whispered from my deepest soul.
I seem to recollect the revealing view,
And the ages breathe out, “This is true.”
Love is blowing from every direction of space.
It comes like a horror, exposing its face,
Which shines out, like the flares of a hundred suns,
And leaves me x-rayed, and completely undone
In the humbled, broken, terror of good.
How large it is. How misunderstood!
Beyond the separation of some evil duality,
Rolled up in intimate, passionate unity,
It thrills me, pushes me, satisfies,
Then chuckles, as I shiver, and close my eyes.

-jenn long

Friday, October 12, 2012

Prayers of the Underdog

Timid, tender areas,
No match for your strength
And largeness,
They trembled in your presence, but stood,
Ready and willing for the onslaught.

But what is this?
You're falling,
With nothing to your bloated claims?
Ah, but the prayers of the underdog,
And those timid, tender places proved too much.
They've overpowered
And taken you by storm.

-jenn long

Oh! When a Woman Says, "Never Mind!"

Never mind the candy.
Never mind the wine.
Never mind the frog’s hair
That’s oh, so, fine.
Never mind the sweet and sour,
Or the night that we, two, met.
Never mind the sugar sack.
Just go on and forget.

Forget we danced beneath the stars,
Touching Venus, touching Mars.
Forget the magic. Forget the calls.
Forget the laughter. Forget it all.
It never happened.
T’was a dream of Time.
But, forget it all,
And never you mind.

-jenn long

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Burn Notice

He had a timed minute plan
On that cheap, trac phone of his,
And all his precious seconds
Seemed to be reserved for someone else.
He asked that I send him smoke signals,
Which, was really not a problem,
For he often left me with the feeling
That I had just been burned.

-jenn long

I Was Behind Your Muse Today

I was behind your muse today
In a slow moving traffic jam
I wanted to tell her to put it in gear
That the fan belt wouldn't pull it
But then I wondered if cars these days
Even have a fan belt
And so I thought better of the whole ordeal
And quietly waited to pass

And when I did
I felt so sorry for the waif
And wondered that she’d had the gumption
To dump the likes of you
She seemed so anemic and altogether wasted
But I knew the feel of that look from the inside
For you'd worn me out too

-jenn long

The Storyteller

I’d been training as a storyteller
Since I was four years old—
Listening to the masters tell their tales.
The old ones said I had the knack,
And so they let me hang around
And listen to the gory details,
Even though I was a girl.

And as I grew, I smiled as they affirmed
The gift of memory, the gift of rhythm,
The heart of understanding within me.
And so they took some time
To train the gifts I had
To twine up the pillars of our people’s history,
And then at night we’d separate,
Each to a wigwam in the corners,
Scattered, so that if tragedy struck,
Not all of us storytellers would vanish at once,
Taking with us forever, the tradition,
And the many holy words.

Then one day we went to war
With a neighboring tribe over territory.
At least one storyteller always went to watch,
So that later, someone could relate
Just how the action of the battle went down—
Who won, who lost, the number of the casualties.

I had always stayed away
From the heat of battle.
The others kept me from it.
Of course, I was still young, just 13,
And of course, I was still a girl.

And so it was with disbelieving shock
That I listened, as the Great Chief,
And Greatest Storyteller of us all,
Informed me that the good news was
Our tribe had won the skirmish,
But the bad news was, our warriors had killed
Their only storyteller.
Now our tribe was honor bound
To supply them with one of ours,
So that their history, and their tribal knowledge
Would not be lost and die.

“Ayita,” the Great Chief leaned in to tell me,
With big tears clouding in his eyes,
“We have decided to send you.”

My heart beat at double rhythm.
I stood silently before him.
I didn’t understand any of the repercussions
Of the words the Great Chief spoke.
But I could feel the apprehension
Tightening across his great, large chest,
And I could see the “missing-me”
Already in his eyes.
And so my own eyes filled with tears, as well.

Chapter 2

I stood in the wigwam of my childhood.
It always seemed bigger until today.
My mother was heating meat on a skewer,
Roasting only four ears of corn.
My two brothers wrestled, kicked the dust up,
And squabbled just outside.
Mama spoke sharply to them,
As she continued to turn the spit.
I looked around for anything that was mine.
I realized that I had nothing.

No one said goodbye to me,
And I never saw my Father again.
I walked with the Chief and his four sons.
We headed into the evening.
I followed them, single file,
Down the trail ‘til the north star appeared.
It could be seen four fingers high
Over horizon’s ledge.

“We stop here,” the Great Chief said.
“This is more than half the way.”
I watched his sons gather wood,
And so I gathered, too.
And when they sat, I sat down.
We ate dried meat, and pumpkin seeds,
Smelling the smoke from the fire we’d made,
Watching it disappear back up into the stars.

We ate in silence,
All of us just looking at the food
Going from our hands up to our mouths.
I glanced quite often at the Great Chief,
And from him, to his youngest son, who had just turned 16.
I tried to guess when he was about to look
Up at me, from his food,
And so I would quickly drop my eyes, past my seeds,
To a place folded deep in my lap.

I didn’t know why I needed to look at him
Over and over again.
I had memorized his face several years ago.
I guess it was because I had never
Seen this particular way
That his forehead pulled,
And his eyes drew deeply down.

Chapter 3

I had never outwardly dared
To dream of being in love,
Especially with the Son of our Great Chief.
His name was Nusdev Iyadnedi,
Which, in your tongue, might mean, “Custom,”
And my hopes of him hid behind visions of my own everyday chores.
I could see me gathering wood and putting it by “our” wigwam, someday.
I could picture me grinding the acorns on a stone, close to where he stood.

Now I looked only deeply into the fire,
Seeing I had no stories,
No vision for what this new turn of life would mean.

That night I woke up suddenly.
Nusdev’s face was close to mine,
His hand was on my shoulder.
He blinked hard and then he said,
“Ayita, there are many things…”
Then a rustling interrupted.
The Great Chief was uneasy on his mat,
And turning restlessly.
Nusdev touched his lips
Quickly to my forehead.
Then hurried back to his appointed
Sleeping place by the fire.

Next morning, we continued the path,
But something had changed inside me.
His touch had done it.
Now, I outwardly wanted him.
I felt like a grown woman!
Knowing he wanted me,
Made me walk like a grown woman.
My heart impatiently bloomed a fragile milk-flower,
As I followed him on that morning.

Chapter 4

Just as the Platte gave way to valley,
We stopped to survey the village below.
They were the same people.
They spoke the same language.
They held the same stories as sacred,
Same tribe, same history.
I wondered now, that we could kill them—
How they could kill us?
How we could kill their storyteller?

We pushed on, down into their region,
Where six warriors,
In full battle dress, and painted faces,
Met us at the village wall.
Their chief came up and stood behind them.
We stood, the Great Chief standing in front,
His four sons right behind him,
And after them, I peered,
Moving my head slightly from one side to the other,
Trying to see around the wide shoulders of the men,
To look beyond this ritual handshake
To the “What-Would-Happen-Next?”

The neighboring chief stepped through his men.
His head also moved from side to side.
The two chiefs exchanged solemn looks and signs,
Then both looked back toward me.
I stepped up between Great Chief’s two middle sons.
The neighbor chief knitted his graying brow
And demanded in disbelief,
“What is this! You brought me a woman-child?”
Our Great Chief stepped quickly up to him
And called him by his given name,
“Gigage Atitsasdi,” was all I heard him say.
Then they traded muffled phrases,
Gestures of denial and anger gradually
Eroded into ones of disgruntled acceptance.

Then our Great Chief stepped back.
He put one arm around my shoulder,
And brought me forward to face Gigage.
“This is Ayita,” he said.
She knows the history, the songs of lore.
We present her to you and to your people
As your Storyteller.”

The grieving people stared at me.
Their eyes were hard and empty.
Their sadness billowed large and dark,
And I watched them turn, with no expression,
From the rustling introductions
To re-enter their humbled day,
Their defeated village, and the tasks they had at hand.

Then Gigage also returned.
I watched his back as he disappeared.
The Great Chief whispered urgently, “Go!
Go on, and follow him.”

I hustled through the six large warriors,
And stepped through the narrow village gate.
I looked around but couldn’t see
Which way Gigage had decided to go.
I looked back, outside, to see the Great Chief,
And all of his chieftain sons were leaving,
Trudging their way back up the ridge,
Where we’d been just hours before.

Then one of the six mighty warrior men
Came and stood directly before me.
He stared at me blankly,
And finally, he motioned me toward the back,
“That is the wigwam where Digatiya used to stay.
You can live there… if you want to,”
And then he turned and walked away, too.

“Thank you,” I said to the back of his head,
And to the wind his quick exit had stirred.

Chapter 5

I pulled the worn out skin up
At the opening of the wigwam.
I tied it up at the corner,
So some light could shine within.
The tent was dim.
I stepped in, and stood by the center fire pit.
There in the dark, it dawned on me,
That I was on my own.

There was some fire wood stacked on the side
Of the door of the dusty wigwam,
And some seeds and jerky meat
In a storage box to the right of the pit.
And so I didn’t worry about
What I would eat on that first day,
But that might be the only thing
That wasn’t on my mind.

I could see large heaviness
Looming black before me,
Threatening to take me captive with the day.
I needed time to think, to discern if I was prey or predator,
And I sought the Great Power,
To change my course if I was the hunted one—
To show me how to grab the mighty beast of happenstance
By the tail, and make him work for me.

I understood one thing:
Survival was the issue.
I had crossed some invisible rite of passage today, and more.
There had been no official ceremony for me,
Only the nod from the Great Chief’s head,
Acknowledging me as Storyteller.
He had offered me to them,
And that was a reality.

But now I took the day.
I had to,
For if I didn’t,
I knew that night would take me.
For at sun set,
The people would require from me a story,
And everyone knew,
This first one must be very, very good.

And though I was young, I knew what day it was—
The equinox approaching—
The equal-day-and-night of autumn, drawing near.
For this day, the lectionary specified
A simple parable story,
The last push of hard work,
To be prepared for winter’s dark and cold—
The story of the Honey Badger,
How his duty proved him
Against lighthearted Rabbit,
And the morals that their visions simply told.

But I was angry at the stories.
I didn’t want to tell them.
I certainly didn’t feel that story speak to me.
No fable, nor history, not even the lamenting ones of exile,
Shed tears for the abandonment, and the imprisonment that I felt.

I walked upright through the encampment,
Thinking, ever thinking,
Holding back my tears at first,
But as I wove my trail through theirs,
My heart turned toward them in pity and in sameness.
Their sadness was worse than mine was—
Their losses weighty and crucial,
Son after son missing forever,
Descendents, generations, altered forever,
In ways that shouted back at the stories,
“Lacking! Incomplete!”
And so my eyes cried just like theirs.

No! No matter how you spun the tale,
No honey badger story
Would offer grace or healing
To these people, or to me.

Chapter 6

I wanted to lie down in the dark of the tent,
Shut my eyes and sleep.
But it smelled like stale dust in there,
And I didn’t feel like building a fire.
I also wondered if the spirit of Digatiya,
The former storyteller,
Still hovered around the wigwam,
And the thought of that drove me out into the light.

I walked unnoticed out the village gate.
I stepped the paces of the four walled corners
That outlined the campsite there.
I looked out as far as my eye could see—
To the north, the south, the east, the west,
And walked back to where I had begun.
It made me see the bigness of the Great Spirit of Life.
It strengthened me to know that I could do my small part.
I walked a trail through the woods for a long time,
Then turned, and went back to the old wigwam inside the walls.
I had just picked up a few pieces of wood
And some brittle kindling,
When one of the large warriors approached and stood before me.
He was the one who had pointed me here to the back.
“I am Anidohi,” he said.

His face was not quite as blank as it had been.
I couldn’t help but smile to hear his name,
For it means “Messenger,” or, “Angel.”
He looked at me, a little shocked, I guess to see me smiling.
It was so rare for a man to speak to someone like me,
But I liked it, quite a bit.

“I have come to tell you
That dusk is soon approaching,”
He was serious now, blank again, and hard to read.
“The people want their story, now,”
He nodded, nudging me to understand.

I had decided, earlier, on my walk,
That I would tell no tales today,
But this presented something of a challenge.
The large warrior, his stern look,
And yet, the honor he had shown me,
For he had shared his name with me.
Something about that kindness
Caused me to follow him, immediately.
I dropped the wood I held in my arms,
And headed to the tribal meeting house.

But as we made our way there,
I realized,
I had not brought any stories
To the forethought of my knowledge,
Much less the ones that were compelled
For this certain day of the year.
I knew that I could tell them,
If I could ever get one started.
But, something prevented me from recalling the beginning.
And so he led me to the seat,
Just there, by Gigage, the Chief,
And I sat, and I looked into the deep eyes
Of the human beings who sat waiting
For their story.

Chapter 7

I opened my mouth.
A silent wind lisped out.
Then it hummed a rhythm, chanting
To a different, distant drum.
I alone could hear it at first,
But slowly, ears were straining,
And they began to hear the story, too.

It was an old, old story.
And yet, it was bathed in newness.
It was a legend that no one ever told.
I don’t know how I knew it.
I marveled at it, also.
It spoke to me,
As I professed its deep set truths.

But it addressed that moment.
It spoke hard to all the people.
I cried there as I told it,
And the people cried with me.
There were a few who didn’t weep,
And I knew they didn’t like it.
It wasn’t the story customarily spoken on that certain day.
But it was the story
Of that particular now.
It prepared awareness,
And layered a healing balm
Upon us, the hurting ones.
It bound up our wounds,
And poured fresh wine and oil,
So that we could see light,
Even there, in the great, dark valley.

And when the story had done its work,
I stood, and I left the people.
I went back to Digatiya’s wigwam,
And built a fire in there.

The next morning I awoke.
A thud resounded in my eardrums.
I startled up and peered outside the skin.
A dead rabbit, and a crumpled, dying, honey badger
Lay outside my wigwam exit.
A fine welcome, I must say.
I knew it was a criticism,
And an edit to my story,
More exactly, an anonymous remark about
The story I didn’t tell.

But I took a log
And put the badger
Over into mercy,
For this was humble pie
That, at least, was edible.
And so I began to skin the animals.
I wasn’t about to let any part of their lives waste on my account.

As I labored, a shadow came and hovered just above me.
I thought it might be the spirit of the passing Digatiya,
But then I heard a chuckle.
I looked behind to see my messenger, Anidohi, shaking his head.
He knelt beside me, without any hesitation, and took the pelt for me.
We stripped the meat together, and laid it out, to dry it.
He had a little leather pouch with some salt and a few more seeds.
“Thank you,” I told him, this time face to face.

Chapter 8

Tonight the humans crowded close
To hear the rest of the story,
For though I had stopped my speaking,
We knew, there was more to hear.
This, the night before the day, when everything is equal.
The darkness and the lightness stand in equanimity.
Again, the lectionary called for meaningless dia-tribals.
But the Spirit spoke a fresh call to the people and to me.
And so I sang, and chanted what I heard the whirlwind singing.
The prayers and hopes and dreams of many voices
Echoed from the tops of the mulberry trees.
And in the spaces missing,
The people hummed and chanted,
For they caught the mighty flowing rhythm,
And they sang that song with me.
And there were still a few hard faces,
Who couldn’t stand the fractal beauty.
They clenched their teeth wanting only to eat
Structured bureaucracy.
But many, smiled, and swayed to the rhythms of the chorus.
They could see new patterns in the fabric,
Weaving anthems peacefully.

And where we could have ended,
We began, with a soothing lullaby,
Singing to the clouds for rain,
To the Sun for burgeoned light.
And children drifted easily
To sleep on happy parents,
Satisfied with all of death and life.

Chapter 9

Next morning, after breakfast,
Anidohi came up walking,
Gigage, the Chief, behind him, looking grand.
For he was in full-feathered headdress,
And a long-robed, beaded topcoat,
Made of the whitest leather-skin
That I had ever seen.

Anidohi said, “Good Morning.”
I smiled again to see him.
Then the Chief stepped forward, too,
And held out an open hand.
“I come to speak my mind with you,
Ayita,” he said slowly.

And so I motioned to a stump
By my fire pit there outside.
And so he sat upon it,
And I sat on the ground before him,
Cross-legged, feeling very small
Across from his great stature.

The Chief began a story
About his mother and his father,
And I listened to him as he reminisced.
It was a touching story, and his love for them
Was poignant, but I knew it was the Once-Upon-a-Time,
And always after that, the plot would turn.

I thought about Gigage, my new Chief, as I sat there,
How his name was most appropriate,
For symbolically it meant “Wine.”
Being this close to him
Warmed me somehow, from the inside.
I felt myself relax within the distance of his arm.
I didn’t think anymore about the structure of his story.
My mind gave up the race to beat him to the moral’s end.
I listened, open to the way the words streamed gently forward,
And I felt like I was one of his oldest friends.

“Ayita,” Gigage paused and looked into my eyes with query,
“The histories are important,
But the futures are, as well.
And I have sons, and so do they,
And so I understand you,
And I like the stories that you tell,
And I even like the way
That you are weaving them anew.
I see the people listening.
I see their hope springs welling up,
And I see life in you.

But I am torn, between the old,
The ways of our ancestors,
And the ways that life has spread
Its essence out so new.”

I didn’t know if I should answer the question
That his eyes were really asking,
Even though his mouth hadn’t formed it just quite then,
But before I could decide, a man came walking toward us briskly,
“Grandfather,” he said urgently, “I need a word with you.”

Anidohi stood up too, from the one knee he had taken.
Gigage stood and walked a few steps out of earshot’s reach.
Then Anidohi leaned and whispered to inform me,
“That is Chief’s grandson, namesake, and future Chieftain,
Gigage Atitsasdi-Itsa, or in other words, New Wine.”

Chapter 10

The Chief called to Anidohi
To come and join their meeting,
But quickly he returned to me again.
“Ayita,” he said, “Another skirmish!
We must defend ourselves against
The People of the North!”
Then the Chief came by, on his way to get the warriors,
“Ayita,” he said, “You must come.
Anidohi, stay with her, and guard her life with yours.”

So I went with Anidohi.
We hurried out the village gate,
Out to a cliff that perched above
The great extended plain.
We saw the Other People coming,
Out the forest on the north,
As our warriors lurched from the forest on the south.
Great muskets, and great anger
Poured out on our warriors from the Other People.

I watched the killings happen.
I will never erase from my memory
The way the life snuffed out so simply,
No drama, no dignity.

And though our bows were no match
For the booming power the Others wielded,
Our warriors stealthily moved around to get them from behind.
And even though their weapons dropped us more quickly and from a distance,
The arrows that only wounded them would do their work in time,
For they were designed to break off inside them and fester,
And they had been soaking in rancid, rotting meat-fat,
And the sickness it would cause would infect them ‘til they died.
They would not be back anytime soon.

But the casualties were great, again.

Chapter 11

Anidohi had stood beside me
For the entire length of the battle.
We had watched in silence as the skirmish
Had unwound.
There never seemed to be a clear beginning
To the action,
And I wasn’t sure when the ending came.
I finally got a sense
Of complete exhaustion in the valley.
And I, too, just from witnessing,
Felt weary and out of breath.

But, finally, it was Anidohi, who turned
And took my shoulder,
And said to me, “Come, Ayita,
We have seen enough.”
And he urged me back into the forest,
And we took the trail that led south
To our walled encampment.

Chapter 12

When we got back, Anidohi walked me
All the way to the door of my wigwam.
We had walked with neither of us uttering one single sound.
Anidohi shook his head,
And then he finally told me,
“I have watched many battles, large and small.
I have partaken in more than my share.
But this was the worst day of my life.”

I stood, looking up into his eyes,
Trying to understand his story.
I didn’t know why this one was the worst.
He was choked up in his spirit.
He shook his head again,
And simply turned and left me there.

I didn’t kindle a fire,
Nor eat a morsel of food,
But just sat on the stump outside my wigwam
And stared into the cloudy sunset.

I heard the crowd gathering at the meeting house,
And got up, without thinking, and trudged down there, too.
Gigage, our Chief, and the surviving warriors
Were already in the center of the 7-sided structure.
The families gathered round them
To sing the song of return.
I stood in the back,
For I had no family present,
And thought of disappearing out the door,
When the Chief called out, and the singing hushed,
“Where is Ayita?”

The people turned. Eyes were on me,
And they opened a way for me to go
And be in the center, with the Chief, and the warriors.
They asked me to add this day, into the days of many battles.

I had heard many times,
In my own ancestral tribe,
The battle stories, the old ones,
And the fresh ones.
But I could not strike away
The rough chert from the story.
I couldn’t make a spear point
Out of the crumbling I had seen.

And so I just reported
The nothingness of the dying,
And the way life had just gone on in spite of it all—
How birds were singing on our way home,
As if nothing had happened.
Smallness moved on both sides of the battle,
And yet, there was something noble about it, too—
How some of the heroes seemed born for that day,
And, while, on one hand, I had watched with tenderness and pity,
As a mother would dread for her sons to go and fight,
There seemed to be a greater plane behind the battle’s fury,
And there seemed to be a blessing on it
From the hand of the Great Spirit,
And this was just one day’s work of a tanning which would take many more.

And as I spoke,
Anidohi came
And stood behind me,
And in witness to my story,
He stood, and great tears flowed down his face
As he made the large signs with his hand and arms
Of the peace dance.

Chapter 13

This morning I left again, eating nothing.
As I got to the village gate, the warrior on guard
Opened it for me, hesitating.
I knew it was not the safest thing to go out
The day after a battle,
But I needed to walk.

I went around the four corners of the encampment again,
And listened to the families, getting up, having breakfast.
I heard loving kindnesses, and petty squabbling words,
Then I headed south, into the trail of the living forest.
I got out into a deep clearing, and sat.
It reminded me of the time, when I was nine,
That my parents and grandparents had taken me,
And left me in the woods to await my personal vision
From the Great Spirit, or from my spirit guide.

This was our custom, and as I lingered,
I did feel a great something come over me.
It didn’t have the visage of a particular animal.
It didn’t have a way for me to go.
I can remember trying to make it something that it wasn’t,
For I didn’t like the feeling I had.

It seemed to me that everything was changing all around me,
And the things that had always been,
Or, the good times, the prosperity,
Were giving way to something else,
That I was born in evening,
And I would see only night in my lifetime.

Other children told stories of their vision quest,
Of seeing a wolf, or an eagle, or bear.
But I always thought they must be lying,
For I surely didn’t see anything like that.

But when my family came with smiling faces,
High hopes of what I had seen,
I lied, too.
I told them I had seen a mountain goat.

But today I sat in the clearing,
And the cloudy feeling came again.
This time I recognized it.
Everything was crumbling,
And shaking, and changing.
The floodplain would never be the same
After the rush that deluged the trees and bushes
And anything else in its path.
And yet, the cloudy presence had a warmth,
And the warmth assured me of a bigger picture.

Chapter 14

Without thinking, I got up and wandered around the clearing.
I gathered long branches.
I pulled them clean of smaller twigs and leaves.
I stuck them, four corners, and gathered more.
I began to weave them in and out to make a booth.
I got maybe half way done, when my stomach growled ferocious,
And I remembered, I had not eaten in two days.
I dropped the latest branch and headed back to the walled encampment.

As I walked, I thought about the hut that I was building.
If I was going to be detached from all I’d ever known,
Why not just go all the way, and live out in the woods alone?
I liked the idea.

And so every day, I would go and walk,
And my journey’s end would lead me to that place in the little clearing
Where I worked on the hut, and when it was done,
I made myself a storage bin, up off the ground, out of clay.
And slowly, without anyone even noticing,
I began to move supplies out there.

Chapter 15

Some days I would spend in the village by my wigwam.
Some days I would work more on my hut out in the forest.
Gradually a few girls my age befriended me,
And on the days when I was with them,
We stitched deerskin shirts and blankets.
Most of them were married already.
Two of them were big with babies.
One had already had a man child.
We made a papoose for him.
They told me their stories.
They didn’t know what to make of me,
For though I was just like they were,
I was nothing like any of them.
It was strange for a girl to live
All alone without family.
I would think sometimes after they left me
Of how my story would go,
For their families had arranged for them
The marriage of their destiny.
But I had no father in this camp,
But mostly I had no grandmother,
No family to choose for me.
Maybe it wasn’t right for a storyteller to marry,
But I still thought about Nusdev,
And longed to have with him
The beginnings of our own nation—
Love and life with him.

Chapter 16

Today when I came to my little hut,
I brought meat strips and a ku nu che ball,
Made of nut meat and shell of hickory.
I heard a crack of a twig snap, then silence—
A mistake only a novice hunter would make.
I froze, sensing the great forest with all of my Self,
Afraid for just one second,
But then a feeling came over me, that, it didn’t really matter.
And so I went on, putting the meat in the storage bin,
And placing the ku ne che in there.

Then I sat.
There seemed to me many possibilities.
I wondered if I could build myself a booth
Closer to my own tribe?
I could just as easily disappear into the forests over there as here?
But every dusk, I returned
To the humans who gathered for the story.

I would tell them what I had seen that day,
For every day, walking, and working on my hut,
Pictures would come to my heart from somewhere.
I would watch the visions unfold.
And then that night,
I would tell the people what had happened as I saw it,
And then, I would wait, ‘til the last one left,
And then I, too, would leave the meeting house,
And go out into the clearing and sleep
In the little hut that I had made with my own hands.

Chapter 17

Today a visitor appeared to me at my little hut in the clearing,
And at first, I thought him just a vision,
But I heard his voice in the outer part of my ear.
I looked at his face, and barely knew him,
But it was the only one of my daydreams,
Nusdev, the son of the Great Chief of my original tribe.

He came shaking his head,
Great disbelief in his eyes.
“What are you doing, Ayita?”
“What is all of this?”
I couldn’t answer him,
For in truth, I didn’t know.
He filled my silence with more questions,
Until I felt that they were statements
Of his severe disapproval.
I tried to listen to the deeper sound under what his voice made,
To see if it was concern that pushed
The interrogation so pointedly,
Or if it was just pure criticism.

Finally he stopped and was quiet.
We stood, both of us silent.
We heard a branch crack to the left.
He grabbed my hand, squeezed it,
And then he ran.
He disappeared into the woods
And left me there alone.

And so I sat down on the deerskin,
Crossed my legs,
And stared into the sun.
And with a great peace settling around me,
I waited for a better vision.

Chapter 18

Today I turned 14.
No one knew it.
I was called to witness another battle,
So Anidohi and I stood, and recorded,
As even yet again, more warriors on both sides perished.

And as the sun got low in the west,
And the battle raged, with no signs of slowing,
Anidohi walked with me back toward the village.

“I am walking you all the way to your hut, tonight, Ayita,” he said.
“My hut?” I echoed with surprise.
“Yes,” he said, very plainly. “I know about your hut in the clearing.”
And so he walked with me, all the way.
“I have been watching you, guarding you,” he said.

“You don’t have to do that,” I said.
“I don’t need it.
I will lay my head and sleep, whether you guard me or you don’t.”

“Yes,” he said, “I realize that,
But listen, Ayita,” he added.
“This latest skirmish signals something significant.”

“What is that?” I asked him.

“The Other People have been making deals and making treaties.
But just as quickly breaking them and making something else.
We are losing this battle, and you know as well as I do,
That it can’t go on this way for too much more.

I have heard that the Other People have set a place aside for us—
A place where we are going to have to move,
A different destiny, but, perhaps, a place where there will be no more battles.
I don’t know just how all of this is supposed to come to be,
But, I know it is coming soon.”

I wondered why I hadn’t heard of this.

And so we sat together on the deerskin outside my shelter,
And it felt good to be so close to him.
Men didn’t usually sit on deerskin, but on cougar, or other big cat,
But, we watched the moon descending,
Which, all of this seemed so out of kilter.

But then we watched the stars as they rose.
Then the night got hazy.
All night, we sat, both, in silence, and in talking,
Just us, together.
Together we witnessed the sun break forth through a smoky dawn.
And that morning, the day after my fourteenth birthday,
He kissed me sweetly, like a man would kiss his only maiden,
And we stretched out together in the sandy clearing.
He put one arm under my shoulders like a pillow,
And he told me he wanted me to be his wife.

Chapter 19

I drifted to sleep at dawn without giving him an answer.
I fell asleep thinking, this wasn’t the normal way.
He hadn’t brought a deer to me.
I hadn’t been given the opportunity
To cook it, or to not cook it,
To show the family my decision.
I had no grandmother here, to help me to decide.

But my dreams were filled with less domestic things.
My visions turned for hours of scenes I couldn’t understand.
The premonitions that rushed my consciousness confused me to my being.
The image was something I had never seen:
A river of humans flowing south,
Crying through the winter.
It poured like brine through a snowy wilderness.
Tears poured all the more, like rain,
Until the river flowed with salt,
And only those who bore it strong,
By finding a new way to breathe and live,
Would make the next new day.

Then lines crossed the continent,
Made of iron and booming noise,
Animal-less skins and wrappers dot
The hills and plains and ponds.

I woke with a sweat.
Anidohi had built a small fire,
But there seemed to me, to be too much smoke!
He was warming some of the meat strips
And cutting a dried pumpkin gourd.

We ate together, peacefully enough—
Talking embarrassedly, awkwardly,
And finally, we left, near dusk, for the village,
For it was story time.

“I really like your stories, Ayita,” he said.
“They make me feel better when I hear them.
Even though some are sad, they have a way I like.”

“Thank you,” I looked into his eyes,
“Very, very much.”

Chapter 20

As we turned our hearts toward the village,
We seemed to walk a quicker pace.
Then more frantic as we realized
The smoke was getting thick.
It was cold that evening, and still,
And we breathed it without any let up,
And finally, we ran to the edge of the forest
Where only the trees were clearing.

We stepped out into the place
Where the village had been,
Only to see ourselves surrounded
By charred remains of pottery and rubble.
The grasses of the prairie still burned to the west.
The 7 logs of the meeting house roof smoldered in pieces on the ground.

The mud houses were down. The thatched roofs gone.
Supplies were gone, taken or burned—
Blankets, food, everything,
And all the people, too.

There was nothing salvageable.
Even the place itself, seemed haunted.
I rushed to the place where my friend with the man child
Had lived to find nothing at all.
Warriors, babies, everyone,
Gigage, and his grandson, Itsa,
Had vanished with the burning flames
And only the smoke was left.

Anidohi and I didn’t linger,
But quickly made our return to the forest.
He only stopped as we saw one storage bin
That the fire had somehow missed.
There was one Ku-nu-che hickory ball in there,
Several paltry meat-strips, and a pouch of miscellaneous seeds.

We grabbed it all and went back to my shelter,
In the clearing of the forest.
We drank some cool water from a stream along the way.
But when we reached the deerskin,
We collapsed ourselves upon it.
I don’t remember crying like that
Since I was, maybe 8 winters old,
When someone had told me that one of the stories wasn’t true.

Anidohi held me, as I sobbed,
And cried my heart out,
And when I calmed, I realized
That he was crying too.

Chapter 21

It was getting very dark
Anidohi got up and searched his pack,
And pulled a skin out of the folds
And brought it over to me.
He sat beside me, and covered me with it,
And we huddled there together.
I took my hand and pulled the corner of the skin up over him, too,
And we felt the living warmth return.
A little moonlight flickered in,
Through the smoky, clouded night.
And I saw, it was a cougar pelt.
He had one, after all.

Then he said, “This is what happens
When the Other People come.
I want to go in the morning light,
And find where our tribe has gone.”

And I couldn’t help but think,
“Our tribe?” “Other people?”
For this didn’t feel like my tribe yet,
And what were the Others to me?

But I drifted off to sleep, and woke in early morning.
Ahidohi was gone from me,
And I was cold, and scared.
I went ahead and built a fire
For I figured a little more smoke couldn’t hurt,
And I wanted to warm some meat strips
And roast a few pumpkin seeds.

I heard someone approaching,
And turned to see Anidohi
Coming through the trail toward me,
With a deer upon his back.

He laid it at my feet and said,
“First things, first.”
Still on his knees beside the deer,
He looked up into my eyes, through his,
So kind, and wise, filled with sweet, tender, pity and love for me.

And I had to laugh a little bit,
And shake my head to clear my thought,
But without any hesitation after that, I told him,
“I will cook it for you.”

And so we skinned the deer together,
And stripped the meat and smoked it dry,
And worked that day as he told me what he had found
That morning as he hunted.

Chapter 22

Anidohi told me had scouted about, and just before he’d seen the deer,
He smelled more smoke from further south, and followed it a bit to see
Another smoking village.
But there was one, like him, in the woods,
And they had spoken together.
The brave told him,
“The Others came. They rounded us up.
We couldn’t even pack a dragger.
I slipped away into the woods
And watched how they made all fire.
They made our hearts burn, too, in the watching.
Everything has gone up in the smoke.
The village days have ended here,
And something new now comes.”

Then the brave told him how he followed them
To another type of village—
A different kind of walls the Other People had.
These walls didn’t keep out harm,
But kept the human beings in,
A “concentration camp” they called it,
And that’s where our people were.

He told Anidohi how to get there,
And that many tribes were gathered.
Anidohi and I talked too, about what
We should do.

And then he turned, he took my shoulders
And said, “I know it may sound crazy,
That I would still think of having my own tribe
With you as my princess someday,
But life still flows, and we need each other,
And today is one of the deepest wells of joy, and of sorrow
That I have ever known.”

Chapter 23

We worked on the deer together,
Cutting it into the thinnest strips,
Smoking it over the fire.
I kept thinking about the vision,
Of the river of tears that flowed,
The Human Beings pouring together
West and through the south.

Part of my heart was hard on survival.
I wanted to stay and live in my hut.
I thought about Anidohi, and his proposal,
And how we were cooking the deer.

And a part of my heart wanted to un-cook it, somehow.
My head ached with trauma, as if I’d been hit.
I didn’t want to be a wife, or a mother.
I didn’t want to be anything,
And I felt I wasn’t.

I felt untouched and untouchable,
Apart from my family, my tribe, the Humans,
And I wanted to be apart from Anidohi too.
I didn’t want any more pain of separation,
And so, to be separate by my active choice
Called a life of peace to me.

Finally I told Anidohi,
“They will make our people go
To the place where you have told me—
The place they have reserved.”
Anidohi shook his head,
“They are in that place right now.”

“No,” I said, “They’re not.
They will have to go there on foot,
And the place is far away.”

Anidohi didn’t argue,
But pondered the thing that I had said.
Then he got up, left the deer, and told me he’d return.

While he was gone,
I cried some more,
And thought about running away.
I had never done that kind of thing,
But it seemed to me, if I had,
I could have run away as a child,
And never been given to Gigage’s Tribe,
And never been strange to the girls my age,
And never been hurt in the heart.

Yes, maybe some wolf would have found me, or bear,
But I would have been much better off,
Only hurting, or dead on the outside,
Not this aching wound on the “in”
That might never heal.

Chapter 25

I woke up early
While the sky was still dark,
Anidohi wrapped around me.
I peered up into the black sky vault
And saw the Seven Sisters turning.
They smiled at me.
They accepted me into their star generation,
And I smiled, too.
I felt accepted
In heaven
And earth below.

And in the morning,
As we shared our food together.
We discussed
The Human Beings and what we had to do.

“You were right, Ayita,” said Anidohi softly,
“They plan to march them to a territory
A long, far way from here.
I think that we should march beside them
On the far side of the river.
Maybe some way we can help them—
Find a way to set them free.”

I didn’t want to leave this flash of happiness I’d found,
But I would have followed the man
Into the Other’s walled camp.
Something about him made me feel
Connected, and accepted again,
And even more, like a chosen arrow
Wanted, and traded for.

And so I began to pack the few things that I had,
And we made our way, together, to a place beside the river,
And waited for the Other People to make their move again.

Chapter 26

We camped in some trees
On a river bluff.
We could lie flat in the bushes,
And look over the walls of the Other's fort,
And see some of what went on.

Our people were huddled,
Penned like their sheep,
Their faces drawn and beaten.

We saw Gigage, and his grandson, Itsa, standing alone at the end.
Anidohi left me hidden
In the scraggy underbrush,
And furtively made his way down one night
To see if he could speak to the chief,
To see how he was doing.

I took turns of watching hard,
And hiding my eyes in terror.
I couldn't bear the alternative thoughts
Of them catching Anidohi, too.

When he returned,
He had great tears,
And shook his head in disbelief.
"The sight of our Human Beings
Wrapped in the Other Peoples blankets,
And the deep-eyed poverty,
Has hollowed my strength, Ayita.
Many of them have fled their bodies, already,
Given up the spirit within."
And Gigage had told him
To run,
And to wipe his memory of the tribe,
And to find a way to live in the little freedom that remained in the land.

But Anidohi had told him
That he and I were together,
And that we planned to follow them
To the place held back for us.

And Gigage told him
The trail began tomorrow.

Chapter 27

“The trail,” I said, “has no beginning.”
“Yes,” Anidohi saw it with me,
“And it will never end,” he said.

“It is only the path of life,
Stretching out before us,
And so we shouldn’t grieve.”

Something about the words seemed right,
Even in the face of this death,
And so, even though we talked
Of fasting ourselves, and offering prayers,
We decided better to eat and be strong,
For whatever the journey brought us.

We didn’t dare to build a fire,
But ate heartily, the dried meat from the deer
That was our wedding dowry.

And though the weather was turning now,
We stayed warm without a fire,
Wrapped up at night together.

And even in this place of great changing,
And not knowing,
I was certain that I had never felt more alive.

Sometimes a lonely screech of an owl
Would tear into my spirit,
And a bad breath would try to come upon me,
To tell me I should be a prisoner too.
But I would shake that feeling hard
And say, “NO!”
And it would leave me.

But, it was three long days before the gates of the Other People
Finally opened, and the river of original people flooded out.

Chapter 28

Anidohi and I were sleeping
When we heard the roar that morning.
We rustled up quickly, and looked below
To see the people pool,
Billowing out beside the gate,
Then streaming down the riverside
With the warriors and their firesticks
Pushing them on downstream.

Many looked back within the walls,
For they were leaving behind
A mother, a grandfather, or a child, too sick to go.
And everyone, even the Other People’s guards,
Looked gaunt, and empty spirited.
No one wanted to do this,
But this, is what they did.

Anidohi and I gathered our packs up quickly,
And began to trail them on the bluff,
Walking side by side with them,
Only without the push.
But we were being pulled along,
Just as forcefully as they,
For our hearts were overthrown with love
For our People, and their lives.

And as we walked, we prayed and cried,
To the Great White Spirit of Mercy
To come upon us,
And heal us in Nu na da ul tsun yi—
“The Place Where They Cried”.

Chapter 30

We walked for days and days on end.
Anidohi kept track,
Reminding me of the New Moons,
Equal days, and solstices,
While I tried hard to lose them all.

After several months it hit me,
that I hadn’t had the time—
The kind of time that women have,
and I wondered at it.
But only a few days later,
I doubled in pain as we walked the trail.
I passed a tuft of blood and flesh,
Clotted knots and hair.

Anidohi came to me,
squeezed his eyes together hard.
He dug a small hole in the cold, winter earth
And buried our first baby.
We couldn’t tell if its destiny
was that of a hunter or a weaver,
But the next day
We were walking again,
Trying to keep up with our tribe.

Chapter 31

One morning Anidohi had gone
To see if he could find a bird,
Or maybe a rabbit for us to eat,
And since the ground had not frozen solid,
I went looking for Hopniss to dig.
And while I stooped and clawed the ground,
I heard the footfalls of a stranger.
I turned to see a booted soldier.
He charged me and knocked me down.

He spoke hard whispers on my neck,
As he pinned me to the earth.
He pushed his body into mine
And tried to pull my tunic up.
Just as I realized what he was doing,
He suddenly gave way.
His breath went out,
And all his weight went flat
And heavy as a stone.
I felt a pierce of my own breast,
As he turned and looked behind him.
Anidohi had shot him with an arrow.

The soldier aimed his fear at us,
And with his only, dying wish,
He pulled an iron.
I heard a blast,
Then watched Anidohi fall.

I pushed the soldier off of me
And knelt at my loving messenger’s side.
"There is no death," he breathed out bravely.
"Be wise, and never grieve for me.
I was never born here.
I can never be destroyed."

Chapter 32

I left them both
In the sand on the bluff,
And wandered off,
Vaguely following the marching tribe.
I heard them sing sometimes, the songs
Of lament and bitter tears,
And I cried, too,
Even though no iron pointed me along.
But I grieved, on top of all else,
Because I wasn’t wise,
For I did long for Anidohi.
I grieved the hidden destiny
That now would play out
Without us together.
But somewhere, far away,
In some other happy land,
A heart of tender tears would roam
And love some maiden lucky enough
To be already there.

For three long days I stumbled blindly.
My tears veiled the harsh reality.
They blurred and fogged my awareness,
And dulled my trembling heart.
These were also the darkest days—
The days when the sun must come back from death,
The three days after the solstice,
And the stories haunted me.
One told of how a brave had lain
In a cave, mauled by a bear and left for dead.
And the third day,
Waters of life seeped in
And made him whole again.
And then the Sun returned.

Chapter 33

Even as slow as the march proceeded,
I struggled to keep up with them,
Especially when it seemed that they
Followed the buffalo wandering.
The soldiers seemed to take them north,
Only to wind up in the south,
And sometimes I would swear that we
Were heading back toward home.
My life felt like a useless gnat,
Hovering helplessly in random flight,
Around some spoiling piece of fruit,
Just because it was there.

I could feel myself growing weaker,
And yet stronger, somehow for surviving.
Living on cattail root and briars,
I stumbled along beside.

But the visions kept me going.
Bright lightnings of pain flashed just beneath
The surface tension of my eyelids.
The colors were stark and real.
The orbits of the stars manifest
Themselves to me in quick precision.
I seemed to hold within my spirit
The knowledge of the Sun.

Time slowed, then stopped for me,
At will, so I could understand,
And replicate in my mind’s eye,
The destinies of every water's drop.
Some piece of infinity began to uncoil,
And I could see it,
Never ending.
Every scale contained many chapters,
But the answers all were there.