a literary journal published by the Black Earth Institute dedicated to re-forging the links between art and spirit, earth and society
My friend was stabbed 53 times.
The lab man came to draw
blood. He apologized
under glaring emergency
lights. She never cried
just said one more wound
won’t make a difference,
as her quiet laugh floated
like smoke through sterile rooms.
Jocko River’s force during spring
runoff sends boulders crashing.
If you stand on the bank
the ground shakes, it shudders
throwing your dance off-beat.
You think you might fall.
You imagine white sparks
under that white rushing water
grinding, like beastly thunder.
My mom stepped onto the highway.
Her coat flapping when she got hit
by a car, whose terrified driver
thought she was kin to the devil.
But she laughed it off. You know,
I’m one tough Indian. Walking around
with 3 broken ribs: a modern war story.
She said, that night it was raining.
The pavement was black lightning.
Boarding school blues washed
the sinner who refused to cut her hair.
Her Dad never looked back when he said,
no Ursuline style to white bibbed nuns.
From the third floor window he looked
like a wind-up toy swallowed by
September’s early morning fog.
That night she braided her hair
jagged tangled disruptive twisted.
I went back to the mountains
The pines overwhelmed my senses
The cedar trees calmed my heart
Those birds sang a lullaby
Mint hid along the streams
Protected by dark green thistles
High above a hawk whistled
A gentle breeze stroked my hair
That summer. I was their baby.
They say he was afraid
of the Indian ways. Waiting
for a holy woman to say begin
was in his spirit, in an oral history
he didn’t want to hear. Besides,
I don’t want to mix religions.
Yet once, during a winter sunrise,
he was swaddled, wrapped, smudged
in sage and sweetgrass smoke.
When I was six, at boarding school,
my hair was long and combed
into braids by impatient big girls.
One braid fat, the other thin, straggling.
My tears created a loud howl.
Those girls got into big trouble.
From then on, it was narrow
eyed stares taking me as their
crybaby, snot-nosed enemy.
I turned away from sorrow
I relinquished pain by cutting my hair
I breathed vapors of a raging river
I ran with my tattered shadow
through pounding rain, across streets
mirroring starvation in department
store windows. Skinny child,
who never learned to skate. Mom said,
We turned you into a war orphan.
I will not run away 1000 lines to write.
They hit her hand with a ruler to match
the vertical red guide printed on paper.
But she came from a woman born
premature, who survived on wild tea,
met a man who rode broncs. They headed
north, stopping to eat sunflower stalks,
where finite margins vanished in that
sunset’s blinding, spellbound light.