146. Sacred Ground

          It is lovely indeed.
          It is lovely indeed.
          It is lovely indeed.
I, I am the spirit within the earth.
          It is lovely indeed.
The bodily strength of the earth is my bodily strength.
          It is lovely indeed.
The voice of the earth is my voice.
          It is lovely indeed.
The feather of the earth is my feather.
          It is lovely indeed.
All that belongs to the earth belongs to me.
          It is lovely indeed.
I, I am the sacred words of the earth.
          It is lovely indeed.
          It is lovely indeed.
          It is lovely indeed.

So the old woman had
Said. She’d chanted
First off in her
language, then in his:
English words, not
Hers, thought Barker.
She’d moved her lips
Slow. He’d understood.

Back that year
In the truck,
Ma had carried
Them too far out west,
Scouting for work
Picking. Driving,
They’d roamed farther
Till the desert rose.
Barker thought: I
Liked them Navajos.
Quiet folk, not
Gibbering, like here.

Remembering now,
Barker sprawled in
Shade of three large rocks.
He’d discovered
This–his secret
Place. Gazing, he
Observed it: must have
Looked good green. And
Looks good dead–
Sparse grass in dense
Clumps worn clean as straw.
Farther off,
Dunes all smooth like
Pebbles in a stream.

She took to me,
Too, old lady did. Asked:
Had I heard
About the Stricken Twins?
They were gods–
One lame one, one
Blind. The story
Runs, kin gave them
Both the boot when
They cried out for
Cures and made some
Noise.
So she said.
Then she says to
Me: Come to our
Sing. The old songs,
Our old stories.
This time, Earth Way.
Next time, Water
Way–it cures
The deaf.
I told her
I’d rather have
A dime.

Barker stretched. He
Pulled out from his
Pocket what she gave.
No dime, but four
Reeds, just finger-length.
Shoot, the way she’d
Acted, how she’d
Shushed him, you’d think
They were gold.
Two blue reeds with
Zigzags, yellow lightning–
One black reed, one
Blue, with faces
Painted, woman, man.
Hollow, they were
Stuffed with scraps of treasure:
Abalone,
Turquoise, white shell,
Jet. Blue bird
Feather.

Barker scooted
Left to catch more shade.
Dug his toes in
Dust. He thought: dry
Works.
Keeps the dead grass
Whole. Then
Roots can hold
The soil till droughts pass.

So he’d
Visited the sing. He’d
Watched them grinding
Cornmeal, petals, charcoal,
To lay out
A world of tinted
Sand: dancing
Figures, drawn out
On the ground,
Squash, beans, rainbows,
Clouds, and sometimes
Bugs.
Next the sick one
They were praying
Over, that one
Rose, and then sat
Right on top the painting!
Singing, dipping
Hands into the picture,
The affliction
They healed with those
Grains.

Says old woman:
He who does
The sing has been sung over.
He tells of
The triumph, also
Humblings of our tribe.
You, boy, you fear
Pain. But
What the body
Longs to cast far
From it, must be
Claimed.
Ask for something,
You give something
Up. We pray, leave these
Sacred sticks behind.

Crazy Injun,
Barker thought now,
Scowling.
I ain’t scared of
Nothing. If I was….
But this thought
Collapsed in darkness,
Horrors,
Chaos writhing,
Scuttling in his mind.
Barker scrambled
Harelike to his feet.

Stricken Twins:

     From the white plain where stands the water,
          From there we come.
     Bereft of eyes, one bears another.
          From there we come.
     Bereft of limbs, one bears another.
          From there we come.
     Where healing herbs grow by the waters,
          From there we come.
     With these your eyes you shall recover.
          From there we come.
     With these your limbs you shall recover.
          From there we come.
     From meadows green where ponds are scattered,
          From there we come.
     Bereft of limbs, one bears another,
          From there we come.
     Bereft of eyes, one bears another,
          From there we come.
     By ponds where healing herbs are growing,
          From there we come.
     With these your limbs you shall recover.
          From there we come.
     With these your eyes you shall recover.
          From there we come.

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