A Journal of Contemporary Arts 






Magnificent, a most amazing leaf
Some holy ones of old might on their walk
Have found, its center crossed with white like chalk--
A springtime, Sabbath symbol of belief.
It serves as my distraction from the brief
Appearance and demise upon each stalk
Of bright azalea blooms amid this talk
From bees who lost them too, but show no grief,
When sullenly some cloud's penumbra sogs
The air around these fuschia -spattered grounds,
And past six screeching, mating jays, my dogs
Seem less themselves but more like moor-born hounds.
A gray face, carved within these living logs
Of oak, bursts from the rough bark it surrounds.



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Canto VI

Entrance aglow, the phantom swiftly led
away, as I attempted to keep pace,
and heard our tour guide fading, as he said,

"Although we have no photographic trace
to prove the legend, it is claimed Delphine--
being a lady beautiful of face --

attracted the attention of the queen
of Spain, who granted her her heart's desire
upon the very moment she was seen,

when yet a teen.” I thought: How strange, the fire
consumes not wood, nor air, nor palm nor fern.
What could this freak phenomenon require?

He finished, while I watched the mansion burn,
marvelling at the dearth of dropping jaws,
and drama none seemed able to discern.

His pause became a belletristic pause.
"Twice widowed, with one husband lost at sea,
the second husband by some unknown cause,

still a great beauty she was said to be.
By most accounts, a mannequin of poise
and charm, who kept polite society.

And while she was not beautiful as Troy's
reputed beauty, yet, hers was enough
to quell malicious rumors of the noise

emitting from these rooms. Rich charm can bluff
its way out of a scandal, with aplomb."
Suddenly, the road below turned rough.

"A charge of slave abuse against Madame
was filed, her home and regimen exposed
to an investigation." Like a bomb

or rocket from the flames returned my "ghost."
And like a soldier in a southern trench,
I took the shelling. "What a lovely host

I am," she drawled, in such proficient French,
it startled -- proper, formal and complete,
her exhalations reeking with the stench

of sulfur. "Grace can optimize deceit,"
our guide forged on, "The formal charge was dropped."
Grout and unlevel rock replaced the street.

Before, plain asphalt pavement, flat, blacktopped
and smooth, it now was made of ballast stone
inlaid like diamond steps. Our tour guide mopped

his beaded forehead, pulled a mobile phone
which rang within the pocket, from his hip,
answered the caller loudly, with a groan

theatrical and humble, both, his lip
affecting pique: "I told you not to call
me ever when I'm working." With a flip,

he cut the speaker short, and drew up tall,
regained his former, scholarly composure.
"Sorry about the interruption, y'all...

Some photographs result in an exposure
with greenish orbs." He winked, as though in jest.
"They commonly precede a bank foreclosure."

The phantom: "How appropriately dressed
you are, cherie -- such cheerful use of blacks.
The door has opened. Will you be my guest?"

The street had now developed streetcar tracks,
innate as veins along the facing block.
"Let us escape this herd of thirsty yaks,

and this malfeasant, gurgling prairie cock,
picking at lies like flies upon their backs.
Come -- smell my sweet bouquets of crimson stock,
my sprays of pomegranate four o'clock."


                       *(2013, Saint James Infirmary Books)


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I couldn’t claim a prouder aunt
Than she who taught this county’s ways,
And lectured me to say its name
Not “Moniteau,” but “Monitaw.”

It went, “The word is Indian,”
French adaptation of a term
Which translates “countryside of God.”
Acutely, she would fix her eye

On me, her lips drawn tight, downturned
Beside my stoic Uncle Stanley,
Whose figure I conjecture might
Be large as that colossal man

Depicted on an obelisk
Beneath Missouri River’s bluff
By graven moon and lithic sun
On granite or volcanic rock.

Our last, best matriarch we lay
To rest, amid four fields of corn.
A peaceful, eastern meadowlark
Forbids us, gorged with song, to grieve;

The travois dragging just in dream
Behind our kind as we return
To Moniteau, with buckskin bag.
This aunt, determined that I know

My origins and what they mean,
Appears indifferent as her face
Suffers when we leave this vista,
But – like my mother – sheds no tears.


The left door, like a mother bear beside two cubs,
   reposes on a blasted, fading, spectral step.

You know there is a staircase rising back of it,
   that any moment, relatives not ever braided

nor feather-tressed, will turn the knob of porcelain,
   transported by dry weather with a dress of fern-

green cotton – like you know their Osage medicine
  will spill from bundles split when they are bending forward.

The Green Corn Ceremony will be coming up,
   when every door receives its garland-husky gourds

hung loosely, with the musk of bison, deer, and elk
   smearing the splintered thresholds of witch-hazel leaves.

Their avian-pecked veneers are pocked, streaked, rotted pumpkins
   that reek of nutmeg, cinnamon, and clove when locked,

because there is a sauce they must be getting over.
   It’s carried from a near, Missouri River’s creek

passing a cultivator from the Civil War,
   long since succumbing rankly to mound-builders’ fury.

You hear a banging crank. The chants of “West or Bust!”
   are bellowed through their smoke pipes from the soaking bank.



As sandpipers rush the peninsula
edging the ebb along Bolivar,
emerged from your insular pensiveness,
look at the liberal gulls
laughing like hoodwinks in orbit.

Notice non-partisan hermit crabs
shrunk in robbed shells on red pericarp;
seaweed beneath the right wings
of pelicans: fogyish, drunk.

Ponder the Inuit parable
devoted to seagulls and seals.

Gather the Clayoquot clams—
mother-of-pearl in your palm.

Balmy impressions in boxlike
sandbars’ political houses,
reciting some Cherokee formula
linking committees to fowl
meant for restoring relief,

shift your attention to shorebirds
coming like Congress in session.


Because the medicine man can’t come himself,
she hums throughout the empty corridors
at four a.m., as I pick up my promenade
around the ward where my last matriarch
is lying. An arcade of tonic monitors
defines her intermittently with flashes,
as I secure my earbuds, pivot, follow
to lyrics of the ancient Iroquois.

The reason being, I have never seen
a mortal woman so profoundly red.
She must, instead, be sent from the Creator,
and neither meant for limits, nor earthbound.

O Ancient Red! The shamans sang, Red Spider!
Red Raven, this is only Ailment’s ghost.
Red Dog, your quarry never may escape.
Red Terrapin, your aid has never failed.

As they began their formulas, invoked
some healing intervener for relief:
Let down your cobwebs from the seventh heaven!

I do not ask her this – though it’s appealing.




Here is what I heard: earth lodges, cooler
by deep degrees, with meadowlarks outside.
The walls, first engineered by Scattered Corn,
a singer and a builder of the now-extinct Hidatsa,
by afternoon seemed strangely to be cornmeal-battered.
Intoning underneath my breath the word for lodge,
I carried like a loden amulet the Mandan hymnal,
which linked me from the threshold to the bird
sewing a fluted sequence from the chinks.

I heard a voice, not matching Sakakawea’s,
pursue me past the gilding of the village field,
but looking back, the earthen buildings quieted.
The drying racks were sighing with their burdens
long absent, and the dowels bare of interwoven flax,
resisted even creaking to the wind’s Dakota howls.
Who was it on the cryptic prairie speaking,
and why was I the only one to be aware
it uttered like a meadow to the sun?


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Occurring often after Makah songs –
a howl, with liberty and confidence,
repeating some familiar melody.

The baby may be anxiously at work,
collecting berries, cannot gather more
because the other babies bother him.

(But here is a transition from the fourth
rendition of the tune, which differs slightly
in value of the notes, yet has the same

melodic trend and rhythm, generally).
The little girl will pick black salmonberries
when women go to gather them, since she

is sister of Kaka’ ochuk, a daughter
Kaka’ochuk adores
– that elfin bird
brown-feathered with a high, repeated note.

(This melody is broken by a pause
and there’s an interlude of spoken-ness
in which the child’s name will be included).

I wish I were on shellfish-sticking stones,
accumulating sidu in my arms
the tide exemplary. I wish I could

collect the crabs, dawn’s early tide gone out.
We would do better, going after crabs.
They do not hurt as much when pinching hands.

Hurry down until you reach the beach.
Your great grandfathers call you, Little One,
huge catches of their fish for you to pack.

(This portion of performance comes up short.
This melody encompasses six tones,
the fourth sharped in each melody’s occurrence,

with higher than three fourths’ intervals as whole.
Do intervals ascending show desire?)




The interval implies a bird in flight,
    a fourth at the beginning and the close,
        recurring as they sing of wings or motion.

Descending intervals are more than twice
    in number than those intervals ascending.
        Recorded versions with their variations

are unimportant. Singers keep the time
    of rests precise, as well as tones prolonged,
        to free the music, in all other ways.

Occurring twice again, descending sevenths
    within the space of two adjacent measures:
        I hear a bird is singing in the mountains…

The song descends, ascending in the sixth,
    the seventh and eighth measures that must follow,
        in order that the singer’s bird may mend.



You cluster the canoe with hemlock branches,
    concealing it when coming onto shore –
         its upper body painted gray, like vapor,

to hide when you surprise them after supper.
    At dawn, they’ll call you, “Masked-Canoe-in-Fog.”
        Below this, you should draw a wide, black band.

Its bottom must be red, though, like the bow,
    where you have swabbed a little crimson stain.
        This process you will fathom when it bobs

above the water. Makah comrades painted
    an eye at either, ominous, wood end.
        Before the expedition, you’ll be summoned

for preparation many days preceding –
    when lounging on the lodge’s earthen floor,
        the one beside you, with the faintest whisper,

reveals the plan. Then you must pass it on.
    No smoking will there be, no food consumption.
        In secrecy, you will conspire, then bathe

and pray in fresh saltwater, thresh your body
    with hemlock branches till the flesh comes off.
        “Whoever causes daylight!” you will yowl,

“now make these muscles fierce, so that no arrow
    can pierce them!” Medicine will make you burn,
        returning home with nothing said you’ve done.



Hand-hewn from cabbage palm trees, split and logged,
    it has more angles than the Seminole
        would normally construct – but still, no gable.

The thatch is ordinary, various
    articles are harbored in the rafters:
        new hoes, glass jars of seed corn, sabal hearts.

Like spokes inside a wheel, the cooking fire
    has had its logs arranged, beneath some rushes
        attached by sloping, almost to the ground.

Two platforms stand uncovered in the camp:
    one where copper kettles overturn,
        the other kept for drying squash and pumpkins.

Old clothes hang from a pole dressed like a scarecrow,
    a water hole hosts tangs of artifacts
        where we repeat, “Here’s what the elders told…”

The hammock at the steep bank’s edge is marked
    by densely-vined, abundant coppices
        in marshland where the grim have come to reap.

Which means that we will leave soon, since our custom
    is always to depart the camp where Death
        leans-to, and never occupy it more.




Hayo tei………… All small fruits ripe
Haitco bi…………. All large fruits ripe
Ota ci…………… Hot no wind
Ota cobi…………...Trees have berries
Yo bobiha ci………No wind
Klafta cobi………...Jumbo cold
Hailing ci………….Birds and frozen fish



When I was ten years old, I looked around
at land, at rivers, at the sky above,
at animals. I could not fail to realize
they were created by some higher power.

So anxious was I, to understand this power,
I questioned trees and bushes, and it seemed
as though the flowers, too, were staring at me.
I wanted to inquire: “And who made you?”
Moss-covered stones I looked at; some of them
appeared to have the features of a man,
but those moss-covered stones returned no answer.

And then I had a dream, and in this dream,
these small, round stones appeared to me, and said
the maker of all things was Wakantanka,
and that in order to repay him honor,
I must regard with awe his works in nature.

The stone said by my search, I proved myself
worth guidance from the supernatural.
It said if I were treating someone ill,
I might ask its assistance, and all forces
of nature would support me towards a cure.



My dear, these demographics are ideal.
In all of Indian Country, Oklahoma,
the only county with majority-
where every native’s Native,
so every time I see a face, I hear—
from distances which otherwise were daunting—
some greeting sent to haunt me in a dream,
because the stranger has mistaken me
for family,
then quickly looked away,
with an embarrassed pause, ashamed to waken.






“According to author and critic A.D. Coleman, The North American Indian is ‘an absolutely unmatched masterpiece of visual anthropology, and one of the most thorough, extensive and profound photograph works of all time.’" 1

Auctioning elegant tissues

of photogravura,

vintage in every way,

the collector must surely

fetch up his glass in a toast

to indigenous canines,

now that the million in dollars

has transferred securely.

   1  https://newatlas.com/collectibles/edward-s-curtis-the-north-american-indian-auction-950k


“Totem pole burned on Vancouver Island in apparent retaliation for sinking of Captain Cook statue” 2

A broken arrow beats a wounded treaty.
Despite the spray-paint words in fresh graffiti,
These war games are archaic as wapiti.

Although no animation could reside
In hardwood, whether brave or petrified,
The presence of a spirit seems implied.

Who set the bottom of this pole aflame?
Come forward, with an alias or name,
And say if it was earnest or a game,

Because when one pretends, the Natives suffer.
The arsonist – authentic or a bluffer?
The Red Road is so rough. Make it no rougher.

Look out on Malahat, where every chief
Condemns the vandals’ acts, in firm belief
Revenge by fire will never bring relief!

When all the Captain Cooks and all the ships
Have sunk beneath the tribal sun’s eclipse,
From now till nuclear apocalypse,

The Thunderbird – atop retaliations
Against the history of its First Nations –
Survives to honor more commemorations.

   2 https://www.straight.com/news/totem-pole-burned-on-vancouver-island-in-apparent-retaliation-for-sinking-of-captain-cook



“The Sacred Heart in southern British Columbia is one of  at least eight churches in Canada to go up in flames in the past two weeks after the discoveries of hundreds of children’s bodies at former church-run indigenous residential schools."3

I came to you with friendship, in good troth,
from distant whereabouts – within my hand,
the finest formal treasures of our land,
and on my tongue, a straight, devoted oath.
But, “True Believer,” you rejected both.
Ergo, the very best of us disband –
for there remains no more to understand,
and you have chased us towards no chance for growth.

Enough with your contrived, timed lines of Latin,
when all the while, you forbid my speech,
to ban the means whereby our people learn.

Those mass, blank graves were dug between your matin
hours and vespers. So now! Let us teach
by universal terms – and make them burn.

    3 https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/churches-burn-and-statues-topple-in-protest-at-canadian-mass-graves-v6zpp8tm8 



“Archaeologists have unearthed a rare trove of more than 80 metal objects in Mississippi, thought to be from Hernando de Soto’s 16th-century expedition through the Southeast.” 4

Chikasha Minko, we have found your treasure
Deep in farmstead grassland known as “Stark”:
Those things you seized to Soto’s great displeasure,
Whom you defied and routed in the dark.

Atop your mound of ravishing ambition –
Or what is left of it, since Spain’s dismount –
Observe the tools repurposed in condition,
The irons, leads, and coppers beyond count.

Did you imagine such omniscient ores,
For ages or forever, could be lost?
Or did you picture those conquistadors
Betrayed by their own metals, crowned and crossed?

    4 https://www.heritagedaily.com/2021/07/chickasaws-repurposed-objects-from-fleeing-spanish-conquistadors/139612




  (Poverty Point World Heritage Site, Louisiana)
  You won’t believe:
I saw a black squirrel
   From the tour guide’s tram,
In a quiet curl
    Along one slim limb –
half-obscured in leaf –
    of a southern oak.
The exhibit, brief
  Though it was, enlarged,
As we passed Mound B –
    (the first unearthed
From antiquity) –
    My secure idea
The place was charged
    With rare energy.
The guide told how
  Excavations found
Basket “bones” impressed
   In the Indian ground;
    Using modern straw,
Re-creating the natives’
    Original forms.
Then, the squirrel, I saw.
  A black squirrel, I swear,
No one seemed to see,
   So the tram crawled on
    As we left it there.





          "The talk ... went here and there about the town, dying and
            borning again like a wind or a fire."  
                  (William Faulkner, Light in August, 1932)

My hesitance was clear to him that morning,
appearing over breakfast on the deck
of cedar, as East Pocket was aborning
above our cabin. “You can make the trek,”
he reassured me, with a bracing tongue,
then looped the laces of one hiking boot.

I scrutinized this trail called “AB Young,”
some claim had been the Anasazi’s route
for sure return to summer hunting grounds.

The plateau’s textures brightened by degrees.
Had I not climbed the sacramental mounds,
and braved Chilhowee, at which many freeze?
Without the relic of a doubt; and so,
a painted, Kokopelli ocarina
in my possession – too, the clay tableau
of Birdman with its resin-glazed patina
in mind – yet charier, I acquiesced,
dressed, packed the water, purified and bottled,
(the “Holy Grail” of our impending quest),
to wonder if the lizards would be wattled.

With walking sticks in hand, we crossed the creek.
“The dawn arrives, when I distinguish things
around me!” as it lifts its slender beak,
the Arizona Yaqui nighthawk sings.


Some character from Christie’s mysteries
Might envy me this preparatory rite,
But fold aside, then hide her jealousies
Beneath these tees and dungarees of white.
An archaeologist loans me his list.
Each item I check off, drop on the pile,
To ask – like any novice nativist –
If there is any unifying style.

Clearly, ruins call for classic style,
A touch of timelessness for mysteries
Once known by the Sinaguan nativist.
Perhaps I’m like some paho* from that rite
By which the builders stacked the sandstone pile.
The luggage holds no room for jealousies.
These pockets are too plentiful to list
In which I stow the blessings stitched with white.

“Palatki” means “red house,” not black, nor white.
The language seems more Czech or Polish style.
What vital items do they fail to list,
Those scientists of sunlit mysteries?
For cold, there’s blue, and green for jealousies.
Sedona’s paint will stain a nativist –
Yet white silk after linen white, I pile,
One fleet moon past June’s first-of-summer rite.

This choosing of the cloth – reflective rite
Though it may be, selecting only white –
Mosquito scarf afloat above the pile,
It strikes me as the standard for the style
Best-fitting the explorer nativist.
I cross a floss-white sweatband off the list,
Like calico that covers jealousies
Of characters in murder mysteries.

Desiring no attire mysteries
Once we arrive, embark upon our rite
Of passage, fleeing petty jealousies
And spite – for we, of course, are wearing white –
A line is drawn through “dress,” last on my list.
My rayon sheath lies draped atop the pile –
To study the archaic nativist
Who perished, with the pueblo out-of-style.

No, white is not the hue for mysteries;
Although its style complements the rite
Of nativist observance. Jealousies
Turn white, burned on the pile so high, they list.

         *paho – Native American Indian prayer stick


In Red House Cliff
A child has taught her spider pet
To spin.

Coyote squatters on the plain,
Who quash the gracile, strained shin
And the bone,

I am alone within this den,
My love upon the mesa’s glyph.
Make the whiptail shake the sage bush, then.

The prickly-pear beside these ruins spy
Out of one eye – a comic arc –
This red, Sedona stone against the air,

Like green piranha
Tearing the agave shoot,
To sip from some deserter’s flung despair.

From planks of cedar,
From brick piles -- powdered, frail --
I pledge to wait for his return,

And when I deem him overdue,
I shall go along the Young Trail,
Retrieve him from the Knob plateau.

  (Poverty Point World Heritage Site, Louisiana)

You won’t believe:
I saw a black squirrel
From the tour guide’s tram,
In a quiet curl
Along one slim limb –
half-obscured in leaf –
of a southern oak.

The exhibit, brief
Though it was, enlarged,
As we passed Mound B –
(the first unearthed
From antiquity) –
My secure idea
The place was charged
With rare energy.

The guide told how
Excavations found
Basket “bones” impressed
In the Indian ground;
Using modern straw,
Re-creating the natives’
Original forms.

Then, the squirrel, I saw.
A black squirrel, I swear,
No one seemed to see,
So the tram crawled on
As we left it there.



Now let the record distinctly show
The great-great grandson of Little Crow

Beside me speaking near Crazy Horse
In chiseled stonework, has no remorse.

His copper nostrils, long, silver hair,
And winces reflect his famed forebear.

When questioned about the people’s mood
Towards this sculpture, his attitude

Is casual, and borders on curt:
Some welcome the “shrine” – but some are hurt.

Nodding, I say, “With mine, it’s the same,”
For a moment, forgetting their Black Hills claim.

Inquiring only about the Sioux,
I cannot guess his personal view.

Where is your instrument, First-to-Wake,
Held by the hand that I dare not shake?

What is your temperament? Tell me why
The fluted Lakota Lullaby

Ends with the chorus of “Sleep, good boy.
Tomorrow – tomorrow will be a joy.”



A traditional Teton Sioux song

 Translated by Jennifer Reeser

You who are upon the earth, behold,
And you above, this one who is extolled.

You who dwell where sunset falls, behold,
Within the West, this one who is extolled.

You who dwell within the North, behold,
You in the Giant’s home, this one extolled.

You who dwell where sun returns, behold,
Continually, one who is extolled.

You whom we embrace and face, behold,
Within the South, this one who is extolled.


Pottery produced by the Caddoan Mississippian culture is some of the finest known in North America. It is usually found in the areas of Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas and Oklahoma.” - World Heritage Encyclopedia, Mississippian Culture Pottery

Good Friday is a time to plant a garden,
And yet instead, here stooping in the yard
I am, where post-construction powders harden,
When early, I unearth the Caddo shard;

Beside some soapstone fragments, so embedded
In Mississippian sediments, the sheen
Of fired clay seems more like cinder wedded
To wattle-sludge, until I get it clean.

The Inca in me knows at once, aroused
From drowsy, esoteric drams— Peru
Approves. Unceremoniously doused
With fluid, its noon “rescue” overdue,

Without a doubt its neighbor-remnants, shattered
By gatherers and hunters, lie nearby.
A midday sunbeam blushes, surely flattered
To have this special mission from on high.

God of the Two Staffs’ barter? Here to broker
Some truce? Or does this relic augur sorrow?
What gifted local brushed it with red ochre
and black, for trade with Azangaro?

Its ragged edges – broken by old strife,
Perhaps – will nudge my scraps from the Adena
Culture, near the prehistoric knife
Of flint, paleo pendants of galena.

My brass Inti will regard it with respect
Above the loving flowers of the sun,
As fellowship with his exclusive sect
Of whose exhibits stands no other one.

      (Poverty Point archaeological dig, Louisiana)

Three thousand years of wisdom now are nigh,
   In those who – by the moonlight – forfeit sleep,
   Discovered in the antiquated steep
   Of clay and humus which will never die,
   But last forever, looking at the sky.
At every turn, an innate urge to weep
   Blows past me like the windy clouds which keep
   Awake -- outside this vault -- the naked eye.
These birds’ red jasper polish fills my brain
   With questions, fragile shells on which to brood:
How can these dainty effigies contain
   Such runic beauty, Native tools so crude
   Creating charm? And how may I attain –
   Through rude means – such eternal magnitude?






For all the smugness in these evil clowns
Of media who shake huge, cotton swabs,
From fake-First Ladies swathed in tacky gowns
They coronate, with glossy “Karen”-bobs,
I cannot help but smell primeval fear.
Their rabble’s rattled now, this much is clear.
As votes are tallied, as the populace
Down-doxes thugs on Washington’s wide streets,
I cannot help but note the fallen grace
They won’t recover, though the foe retreats.
Forever wounded now, forever gone
Is that good faith this Party once extended –
Like gleaming crosses on the White House lawn
Whose civil terms, post-Lincoln’s Day, have ended.



(a traditional Acoma Pueblo Native American lyric)

Once upon the west edge of Laguna,
Against the lower side, there was a bowl
Akin to those in which the shaman mixes
His herbs and liquids.

It nicely yielded cattails, plants, and pollen.
It nicely used to motivate the rain gods
To paint it with a scene of sprinkling rain.

Now, northward over us, duck rain gods fly,
And seek Laguna’s bowl of medicine.
Alas! A sad calamity has happened.
Lamentable, the situation is.

Now here about us from the south direction,
The one from which the winter wrens will come,
The birds are white, and in their flight seem clouds.

They seek Laguna’s bowl of medicine.
Alas! A sad calamity has happened.
Lamentable, the situation is.


“I may challenge the whole orations of Demosthenes and Cicero, and of any more eminent orator, if Europe has furnished more eminent, to produce a single passage, superior to the speech of Logan, a Mingo chief, to Lord Dunmore, when governor of this state.”

              —Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia (1785)

I call on any white man now to say
If he has ever reached my cabin hungry,
When Logan has not furnished him with meat;
If he, at any time, came cold and naked,
When Logan failed to cover him with clothing.

Throughout the passing of this bloody, last,
Enduring warfare, Logan has remained
Idly at home, an advocate for peace.
My adoration of the whites was such
That when I passed, my countrymen would point,
And say, “He is an ally of the White Man.”
I even thought to make my place with you,
Except for the abuses of one man,
A colonel you call Cresap, who last spring
In cold blood, unprovoked, not even sparing
My wife and children, killed my kith and kin.

There runs no single droplet of my blood
Within the veins of any living creature.
And this has called on Logan for revenge.
I’ve sought it. I’ve killed many. I have glutted
My vengeance. For my country, I rejoice
Beneath the beacon glimmerings of peace.

But do not harbor any supposition
That mine is the festivity of fear.
Logan has not ever been fainthearted.
He turns not on his heel, to save his life.
To mourn for Logan, who remains? Not one.


Thus have I flown here: to remove myself
From adding to the universal ills.
Not for the solitude. Not for the thrills
Of climbing to the baking, mesa shelf.
The smallest of all owls they call the Elf,
In exile from the Yavapai Black Hills,
At nest in its Saguaran habit, stills
Me – Cousin. Until I have come to sort
Priorities, my consorts are the Gila,
And limestone tinted like a young tequila
In flasks of glass, through which light rays distort
The distance, turning sage to gypsophila;
Until my burning eyes become unseeing;
Till I become a new, peculiar being.





May I not meet this coming summer
     The form from which your scales are shed
On this machine-laid, man-made pavement
     Shyer creatures shun with dread.

I lasso you, with loops of plastic,
     To burn upon my urban drive,
Bringing a needed, springtime shower –
     Your body elsewhere left alive.

Black Back, Pale Belly, subtly shimmer,
     Allowing me to learn that song
Snakes taught the hunter’s lips to utter,
     That they might never do him wrong.


Erected to commemorate a debt
Ignored or scorned by some important man,
It rose, reminding damages were yet
Unpaid, to stain both family and clan
The way they would each creature’s vivid face
By wicked tools and patient fingers carved
Across the fragrant cedar, till disgrace
Surfaced in full before the justice-starved.

Petroleum spills demanding retribution,
Despised by all, and ordered by the courts
To be redressed for their rude, bold pollution;
Some presidential slight – these are the sorts
Of offense which this totem seeks to school,
That we might learn the artist’s love of Duty
Upon what’s called the Pole of Ridicule,
From cunning craftsmen, disciplined by Beauty.

Disfigure them in effigy. Invert
And fix them on wood staves, for all to see.
The skilled, creative ones whom they have hurt,
By Art, acquire immortal dignity.



He leaves the deadly weapon here
before he takes his trip.
Regret and conscientious fear
one theft, and it might slip

into the wrong hands, not for good,
directly motivate
his visit to my neighborhood,
to thwart some crime of hate.

Envisioning a violent score,
some vicious killing spree,
he must prevent the Fates before,
entrusting this to me.

But who made me Fate's chaperone,
and why should I fulfill --
forever seemingly alone --
the charges of goodwill?

His trepidation, I can't share,
though I admire the thought,
and will, by all means, guard with care
this object he has brought.

No guardian am I. Expect
my charge for only beauty --
but out of filial respect,
I nod, and do my duty.







Here is nowhere for the willow.
Blow unrivaled, Ocotillo.
Past the Ponderosa rim,
Over fertile berry vines,
Raised above the shade of dim
Pebble beds and columbines:
Desert coral, Candlewood,
Blooming like blood brotherhood.

Dry of laughter, dry of sob
Sounding on East Pocket Knob,
How could I – where ‘open carry’
Signifies unbounded sun
Glaring on the hiker’s prairie –
Fire a grumble, like a gun?
Mute communion must suffice
With your arid paradise.

Have you lived one hundred years,
Puebloan Sinagua spears
Buried in this mesa slope
Where iguanas shake you; where,
Walking stick in hand, I lope,
Hoping neither snake nor bear
Any moment, breaking through
Cacti, will emerge from you?

Why, below the azure, clouded
Vault of heaven, have you crowded
Out the Spanish Bayonet,
Crimson hedgehog and agave,
Like the huddled, red rosette
Better matched the far Mohave,
Rather than Sonoran sand?
Your profusion— chance, or planned?

Kindred of the Boojum tree,
Listen – do not question me.
Though you weren’t identified
Absolutely at first sight,
While I feigned to be a guide,
Leading up a hot, cliff height
Primitive pursuers of
Hunted quarry – it was love.






Ballade of Drowned Western Art
  (Stark Museum of Art, Orange, Texas)

Where are Russell, Bierstadt, and Paul Kane
With Remington and Teichert and the rest?
Hung helplessly, have they been drowned by rain,
Our finest paintings from the Old Wild West?
And Dunton’s “Talking at His Fluent Best,”
His close-knit bronco riders in a brush
Of grays, the Sioux child’s beaded, leather vest –
Were they immersed beneath the torrent’s gush?

And where is John James Audubon’s blue crane –
Above the flood, or swimming in unrest?
Do Couse’s lovers, spoiled by water stain,
Irreparably float – the brave’s bare chest
Against his Native maid, who, chastely dressed
In buckskin, holds her cheek, to hide a blush?
Against her modest form, is he still pressed,
Or have their figures turned to swirling mush?

“Harvey,” they have called this hurricane,
Whose currents cover cattle at its crest,
Like those on Teichert’s watercolor plain.
What comfort have I – that museum’s guest –
They were protected while the streams progressed,
Like mines of gold to which those pokes would rush?
Have they survived, untouched somehow, and blessed –
Like Harvey bluffed at poker, with four flush?

Chief! Do those proud indigenous remain,
Or – like their forebears – did they die, distressed
Within their true, apparent, “safe” domain,
Their hopeless cries – for pride’s sake – unexpressed?


Some Other Indians

Some other Indians mock me for my love
Of feathers, stones, and for my stilted talk,
And that I stop to watch the circling hawk,
And that I may be stilled by mourning dove
And bluejay both, before me or above.

They whistle shrilly, while they watch me walk
For miles in rain and cold, to pick a stalk
Of tasseled corn, or stamens of foxglove.

But Grandfather growls, “The child is a poet.
Leave her alone, and should she wish to weep
Because the shamans chant, because the birds
Have spoken -- though the rest of you don’t know it,
This speech of winged things – snicker in your sleep;
For I prefer her wild, old-fashioned words.”











Sedna, Mistress of the Underworld


The Eskimos recount from ancient lore

The tale of one without a loving wife.

An Inuit dwelling on a lonely shore

With daughter, Sedna, lived a quiet life.


The girl grew handsomely, till every youth

Attempted to obtain her, for a spouse –

But Sedna, proud and vain, found each uncouth,

Refusing to forsake her father’s house.


At last, upon the breaking of the ice

In spring, an esoteric seagull flew

With gliding, silver, skilled wings to entice

Young Sedna, and a winning song, to woo.


Seducing not with song alone, but words,

The gull swooped towards the girl beguilingly:

“Into the territory of the birds,

Into my country, Sedna, come with me!


The finest leathers reinforce my tent.

Soft bearskins will enwrap you by the fire.

My fellow gulls will listen, make descent,

And bring you anything you might desire.


Their plumes shall fall in fine folds to your feet;

Your lamp shall never lack abundant oil;

Your bowl will never be in need of meat,

And you, yourself, shall never have to toil.”


Not long could Sedna, so bewitched, withstand

Such wooing, sung by one to whom the feather

Came freely – so towards the seagull’s land

They made their way, and entered it together.


Arriving after long and brutal travel,

Sedna rested, only to discover

His song had been a lie, and watch unravel

The lovely story promised by her lover.


Her home, not something any wife could wish

To be, was not of leather pelts, but pinned

In patchwork style, with skins of wretched fish,

Which gave free entryway to snow and wind.


Instead of downy reindeer hides, her bed

Was hard with walrus wool, and she must live

Not on rich, sweet venison, but instead,

On foul fish, which were all the birds would give.


Too soon she found her husband gull had lied.

Regretting, as she shivered with a pang

Of hunger in her gut, how foolish pride

Had spurned her Inuit suitors, then she sang,


“Aja. O, my Father, if you saw

How miserable I am, then you would come

Before the ice and snow beneath me thaw,

While I still sit within this fish tent, numb.


If you could see me in my present danger,

Across the sea by boat, we both would hurry

Away from these, who treat me like a stranger,

While round my bed, the flakes whirl in a flurry.”


One year passed, and again, the sea was stirred

By warmer winds. Her lonely father came

To see the country of her lover bird,

And finding Sedna, heard her beg in shame,


“O, my Father, let me now return!

Hear the outrage done to me. I cringe

To be the teller of what you will learn.”

And, having heard, her father sought revenge.


The Inuit destroyed those who defiled

His daughter, brought them down from arctic air,

To leave them irremediably piled

Within that land which brought her such despair.

The other gulls, discovering him dead,

(for whom they mourn and cry until this day),

They set out in pursuit of those who fled,

And found the two at sea, not far away.


Over the boat, they stirred upon the air

A heavy storm; within the ocean rose

Immense waves, threatening the helpless pair.

Her father, in this mortal peril, chose


To offer Sedna to the birds. He flung

Her overboard, then, cruelly, he took

A sharp knife to her knuckles while she clung

To the boat’s edge with a tight death grip, and shook.


Her fingers severed, first joints, to the nails

Into the tempest tumbled, there transformed

Upon the froth. They turned to living whales,

The second joints, to ringed seals as it stormed.


Meantime, the seagulls – thinking she had perished –

Allowed the storm to cease. The father let

His daughter back into the boat. She cherished

A hatred for him, helpless to forget.


Bitter and deadly vengeance, then, she swore

Against the Inuit. Once they had stalled

Against her native and familiar shore,

In safety and composure, Sedna called


Her dogs, who waited for her in those lands

With loyalty, from winter till the thaw.

And Sedna set them on her father’s hands

And feet, commanding them in spite to gnaw


Them off, once he had fallen into sleep.

He woke, and cursed himself, and her, and those

Who maimed him, when Earth opened in a deep

Pit, to swallow them, and then to close.


In Adlivun, the couple now reside,

That zone beneath the Heavens and the Green,

Where Sedna – wounded daughter, seagull’s bride –

Is now the Underworld’s eternal queen.










The Native Strain


“We never talk about the Native strain,”

My mother warned in secret, early on.

My father honored her. Our photos – drawn

From generations, grey with filmy grain –


Were never framed and flaunted, on display

Like other people’s. Faces by the dozens

Remained in albums – uncles, aunts, and cousins

Enclosed in boxes, shelved and stowed away.


Her father, although handsome, could not “pass.”

But this fact was as absent from discussion

As crass vernacular, or formal Russian,

Or choruses of “mountain man” bluegrass.


Our Native ties, however, were the sole

Connections we could talk about at all:

A tightly-bound clan, insular and small,

Whose lives we heard as through a locked keyhole.


To read my mother’s scrapbooks, one would think

The Indians were our one folk, for none

On our “white side” received us -- they would shun

Us totally, to be our “missing link,”


So they received her mention on no page.

This was Grandmother’s lifelong punishment,

Dishonoring her people – wild, hell-bent

On “savages,” at fifteen years of age.


No single nor escorted Anglo member

From my maternal granddam’s well-heeled kin

Would travel down by train, nor enter in

To my grandfather’s house, that I remember.


Occasionally, I might overhear

Some snippet of a whispered conversation

Long-distance -- when my wild imagination

Would rampage, and the mystery disappear.


The while Monk drew a breath, I never saw

Those Scots Virginians. Untamed Tennessee

Became an oft-seen, second home to me –

The birthplace of my “alien” papaw


They called “Damned Injun” to Grandmother’s face.

On Lover’s Leap -- the tragic promontory

Where Cherokees maintained the moving story

Of Sautee’s and Nacoochee’s deaths took place,


The ancient Romeo and Juliet

Of Native America— he loved to stand;

On Lookout Mountain, where he could command

A view of seven states, all in a set;


Where Chickamauga Cherokees defied

Colonial encroachment, and no cragging

Of cliffs is customary – there, where Dragging

Canoe once took the Cherokee to hide.


Those were the photos hung in every room,

Of precipice and mountain, peak and bluff:

High, low, as though there could not be enough,

With scenes of snow, by harvest, or abloom.


Cliff faces were the faces we would see,

The hill, the valley, and the still, blue lake:

The earth for whom our forebears would forsake

Their tribe, their culture, and their family.