by Karenne Wood, Mohegan councilwoman
Blue mountains encircle a prayer
to the breath of the dead-
everywhere, seeds are lying dormant
in the ground. This is a country
remembered-dogwoods and redbuds,
deer at a field's edge,
the river roiled into its embrace
of red earth. We are powerless
here, in the face of our love
for legends of granite
and shapes that gather at night.
We are powerless when
mountain laurel spreads stars
through forests, when cedars
dance with the yellow leaves falling,
when hawks are crying over us.
Shadows move west and then east,
a circle of two hundred years.
On the banks of the Missouri, a man
with braided hair tells himself stories
and looks at the stars. He guards
sacred places, a hundred miles
of shoreline, and he is alone
when he faces the ones who would steal
from those graves. They are not white men
this time but relatives, robbing
the spirits. He is the dust of their bones.
A pale Montana woman wrestles barbed wire
and drought, checking the skyline for rain.
Her grandfather plowed this same ground.
So she goes into it, freckled and burned
by the beauty of pastures where calves graze,
lavender mountains rising to the west,
the vanishing outlines of wolves at twilight.
And in Lapwai, the Nez Perce leader
holds his hand out to the future
where forgiveness lies within himself.
He remembers years of winter
and the chiefs who would not leave.
His prayer heals a generation-
a red flower's fingers, uncurling.
Nothing was discovered.
Everything was already loved.
We, who embrace our fathers' homeland
and indenture ourselves to its seasons-
its rhythms of larkspur and columbine,
camas and tamarack, cottonwood, cedar-
hand this love to you, whose faces
rise out of the ground, looking west-
all the love there is, that you may hear
grasses sing and become
many voices of those who came
marking a trail. In our tongues
we welcome the people who follow us here.
(This poem was written by Karenne for the 200-year observance of the beginning of the Lewis and Clark journey west)
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