Thursday, May 12, 2011

Sweat-House Ritual No. 1

Image by Vincenzo Cosenza


Omaha

Sweat-House Ritual No.1

listen old man listen
you rock listen
old man listen
listen didn't i teach all their children
to follow me listen
listen
listen unmoving time-without-end listen
you old man sitting there listen
on the roads where all the winds come rushing
at the heart of the winds where you're sitting listen
old man listen
listen there's short grasses growing all over you listen
you're sitting there living inside them listen
listen i mean you're sitting there covered with birdshit listen
head’s rimmed with soft feathers of birds listen
old man listen
you standing there next in command listen
listen you water listen
you water that keeps on flowing
from time out of mind listen
listen the children have fed off you
no one’s come on our secret
the children go mad for your touch listen
listen standing like somebody's house listen
just like somewhere to live listen
you great animal listen
listen you making a covering over us listen
saying let the thoughts of those children live with me
and let them love me listen
listen you tent-frame listen
you standing with back bent you over us
stooping your shoulders you bending over us
you really standing
you saying thus shall my little ones speak of me
you brushing the hair back from your forehead listen
the hair of your head
the grass growing over you
you with your hair turning white listen
the hair growing over your head listen
o you roads the children will be walking on listen
all the ways they'll run to be safe listen
they'll escape their shoulders bending with age where they walk
walking where others have walked
their hands shading their brows
while they walk and are old listen
because they're wanting to share in your strength listen
the children want to be close by your side listen
walking listen
be very old and listen

— English working by Jerome Rothenberg,
from Alice Fletcher and Francis LaFlesche

Posted over on Poems and Poetics

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