At night, in these mountains you see a million stars, but all you hear is the silence. It bothers you, this silence and you strain to hear, what? There is no one here but you and your breath is swallowed by the night sky. Be still for the wind will rise, and these mountains and these trees herd us into ever smaller spaces as we have been herded for generations, we will gather as we ride among the peaks and down into canyons, listen carefully, for inside the wind we dance around your ears, our songs faint. As the full moon rises slowly over the mountain listen carefully you will look for us but we cannot be seen. You will hear our song dancing across this mesa, one voice to another. You will imagine us coyote, you will feel a chill along your spine and we will fall silent. The stars will smile for they know our stories but to you we are simply, the songs of coyotes. Listen to our voices we will tell you of the land of the grasses once here where our herds grazed, now gone to endless sage. As we lick at your face taste the tears which have watered this now arid soil. Look at the flowers pushing out of the sand and rock, see our faces in the stones about your feet. You may return to your homes and pull your comforters around your chins, hiding from the night’s chill, but we shall remain among these peaks, in these canyons for another ten thousand moons.
First appeared in Erothanatos, Vol. 3, No. 3, July 2019
Like the Anasazi’s sudden departure from his cliff dwelling I too snuck away, with hardly any trace from a life no longer in clear recollection, only faint images survive, of hours in the City Lights Bookstore reading Corso, Ferlinghetti and Ginsberg, then buying the slim volume “Gasoline” not because it was my greatest desire, but its price. Now the worn volume sits nestled between Wilbur and Amichai, a fond memory, like an afternoon in the park in Salt Lake City the tarot spread out before me whispering their secrets for the slip of blotter, the small blue stain bringing an evening of color and touch and that momentary fear that nothing would again be as I knew it to be. The Anasazi knew the arrow of time had flown, had passed the four corners where I lay in the street another senseless victim of a senseless war, while Karl held the placard demanding peace, until the police urged us to move along, and offered the assistance we were sworn to reject. Now the corners seem older, more tired of the life that treads on them daily, on my path to the Federal Courthouse to argue a motion where once we spilled the red paint the blood of our generation. Now there is a wall with their names, a permanent monument while we, like our Anasazi brethren, are but faint memories.
First Appeared in Ellipsis Literature and Art, Issue 35, 1999.
Ninety-six years ago today Women gained the right to vote. It would be another five before those who preceded the lot of us were blessed with citizenship, the least we could offer, after our prior gifts of disease, alcoholism and down sizing. Who, our forebears must have imagined, wouldn’t want to live somewhere they had a reservation in their name we had given them, their land taken with their language, no longer useful in our shared world. The King of France allowed only the Jews to be moneylenders, reserved space in each town for us as well, for which we are still told we should be thankful, but you have no idea how to say so in Navajo.
He clearly remembers standing on the edge peering down into the almost bottomless canyon, listening to the narrow river slide across the rocks thrown down by its walls over millennia. He was a visitor here, knew he would stay only briefly, then leave, his spirit hiding among the rocks in the nearby mountains, staring down on the mesa for eternity. He remembers listening for coyote, begging the wily one to tell him the tales of its ancestors with whom he will soon share this canyon. All he hears is the wail of the jackrabbit, coyote’s message in a foreign voice, as night engulfs the mesa and he stares up at the galaxies and stars which barely notice the small orb hanging in the distant sky.
My ancestors stole your tongue and left you mute in a world you could not grasp. Now as I search for words of forgiveness I can find none, for my voice is clogged with foreign phrases that once told of your ancestors who lived amid these rocks. We schooled you, stealing your spirit, which whispers to us as the sun climbs slowly over the great stone set deep into the endless desert. When the wind comes down from the north, it sings a song which cuts through our coats and deeply into our bones. There is no one who will claim us when we are plundered for display in some museum, no one to sing a blessing to ward off the spirits that will haunt us into the next life. The ghosts of your people walk among us and we can, at last, hear their whispered entreaties carried on the wind deep into the canyon.