desert sky circles:
sunset’s red rainbow beckons
as the moon rises
Lost in the desert, Throws-his-words and Fierce Cat heed Raven’s sign, a red rainbow surrounding the rising full moon, that leads them to water. The haiku is how I would write it; here is Throws-his-word’s song:
In the land of hard stones,
In the land of painted giants,
In the land of angry trees,
In the land of parched lips,
Raven, where is the laughing grass?
Raven, where are the sleeping trees?
Raven, where are the deer and the buffalo?
Raven, where are the singing streams?
“Wait for the sunset”, Raven whispers.
“Wait for the moonrise”, Raven whispers.
“Look me in the eye”, Raven whispers.
“See what I see and come to me.”
I linked this poem to the readwritepoem blog, where there is a weekly poetry “prompt” inviting people to submit poems on a new theme each week. This week’s theme was collaborative, to write a poem using the first line donated from another poet’s poem. I selected my line from a lovely poem by jone.
(You can read other poets’ submissions on the theme at the readwritepoem blog too. By the way, red rainbows are a real phenomenon, and the one Nancy and I saw during a neighborhood walk last weekend was the inspiration for this poem.)
As part of the prompt, I also donated the first line of one of my own poems, and I was delighted to see how other poets took it and made it their own. Check them out!
Lights of the long-night sky
Dance at your laughing, whirling dance.
They’ve leapt up from their dark-frozen waters,
Greeting you in song, sisters to sister,
While you as if waking from sleep, shook
Off your buffalo cloak and joined their bright cold dance.
They’ve waited for you in brooding patience, dreaming of
Your fierce love and your gentle anger, longing for you
Through long summer years
Until you came at last to their cold, sharp, dark lodges.
They sing just to you,
Help you to dance
They look out at me from the sheen
Of your dark eyes, bright and jealous.
. . .
Now you lie on an icebound boulder, panting and laughing,
And ask yourself if
They know only cold bright dances or dark lonely songs.
You pull me over to you into a buffalo robe together
Until they fall
This poem is Throws-his-words’ song about the first night that he and Fierce Cat spent under the winter Northern Lights in their long westward journey. (Who are Throws-his-words and Fierce Cat? Read their story, and other songs by Throws-his-words.)
I linked this poem to the readwritepoem blog, where there is a weekly poetry “prompt” inviting people to submit poems on a new theme each week. This week’s theme was collaborative, to write a poem built on the bare bones of another poet’s poem. (You can read other poets’ submissions on the theme at the blog too.)
I took as my inspiration this set of bare bones:
Lights of __________
________ at your _________,
________ you _________
while you ____________
your __________ and
____________ with you
until you ___________.
They ___________ you,
help you to ___________
They __________ sheen
of your ________________.
Now you lie on a _____________
and ask yourself if
they _____________ or
_______ you into a __________,
until they ___________
provided by Christine from her original poem Lights of Mantras. I only read her original poem after finishing mine, and I really encourage you to read it and the story behind it. For me this collaborative process was fascinating and fun, and it led me to a poem/story for Throws-his-words and Fierce Cat that I would never have found on my own, and yet which feels so right for them.
As part of the prompt, I also provided the skeleton of one of my own poems that I wrote last year. Seeing how other poets took my poem’s bare bones and made them their own was delightful. Check them out!
(Picture credit: Bud Kuenzli on APOD)
Throws-his-words’ love songs for Fierce Cat
Warm wind in winter,
Cool breeze in summer,
She dances with the otters,
Twisting, splashing, diving,
And then she returns to me.
Sparks from my campfire
Fly up to join the stars
And tell them stories.
The moon and your reflection
Shiver in the windblown pool.
Calm the waters, beloved,
Beloved, calm the waters,
So they both can sleep.
Today is a day for standing.
Today was a day for standing.
Deep eyes flash.
Deep eyes thunder.
Deep eyes rain and rain and rain
Their slow, beautiful dance.
Stars join in, but
Even more slowly.
Learn more about real native American songs here.
Who are Throws-his-words and Fierce Cat? Read their story in this previous blog post.
(an autobiographical myth)
One morning, Throws-his-words woke up from a dream. The dream was hard to remember, but he knew it was a dream about a song. He kept dreaming about the song every night, but every morning he couldn’t remember it. He knew the song the wind made, but that was not the song from his dream. He knew the song of rain on the tall prairie grass too, and all the songs the People sang around their campfires, but none of them were the song from his dream.
Don’t breathe, don’t breathe!
Can’t you hear the grass singing?
The grass is singing to the clouds.
One morning very early, Throws-his-words went out walking and saw Raven sitting at the top of a maple tree on a high bluff. “Raven”, he called, “do you know the song in my dream? Where can I find it?” Raven replied, “Go to the sun”. Throws-his-words went back and told his father about his dream and what Raven had said. Then he said goodbye to his father and mother and the People, and started walking. Every night he dreamed of the song, and when he woke up he walked toward the morning sun.
In the mist
I see more clearly
The path before me.
He dreamed for many nights and walked for many days until the prairie became a deep deep forest. The songs of the wind and rain were different in the trees, and he listened to them for a long time to learn them, but they were not the song from his dream. In the forest he met a different People and stayed with them for a long time to learn their songs, but none of their songs were the song from his dream.
All the trees together
Sing more quietly
Than one tree alone.
They sing to me the same song:
“The whole world
Is just behind me — look!”
One of the People in the forest was a woman named Fierce Cat. Throws-his-words sang to her the songs of his People and the songs of the wind and rain in the prairie grass. Then he told her about his dream, and she said she had had the same dream. They decided to search for the song together.
Let me learn your song.
Let me learn your song.
One evening at sunset, Throws-his-words and Fierce Cat saw Raven sitting at the top of a maple tree on a high bluff. “Raven”, Fierce Cat called, “do you know the song in our dream? Where can we find it?” Raven replied “Go to the sun”. So Fierce Cat said goodbye to her father and mother and her People, and she and Throws-his-words started walking. Every day they walked toward the evening sun until they were too tired to walk any more, and every night they dreamed of the song.
The rabbit and the deer
On a bare hilltop
Listen to the sunset,
While Raven keeps watch
From his tall maple tree
For the coyote.
But today coyote is not hungry,
As she waits
For her pups to be born.
They walked for many days and dreamed for many nights as the deep deep forest turned to prairie, and for many many more until the prairie turned to high mountains. They learned the song of cold rivers falling down the mountainsides, and they learned the song of deep snows, and they made many songs of their own.
Moon over snow,
Ice in the river,
Let’s wait here a while my love,
And sing a cold-warm song.
Then one day they came to the top of a high bluff, and before them was the great ocean. The sun was sinking into the water, painting it in red and gold. Raven was sitting at the top of a maple tree there, and they called up, “Raven, do you know the song in our dream? Where can we find it?” Raven replied, “Go to the sun”. So Throws-his-words and Fierce Cat jumped together and fell down and down into the water, and Raven turned them into gray whales. Then they finally remembered the song from their dream, and it was their own spouting and deep breaths and whalesong. They leaped from the water for joy and crashed back down and leaped again. The rest of their lives they swam and sang together.
(my own invented myth of the Pacific Northwest’s Columbia River valley)
One morning, Raven was sitting on a branch high up in a maple tree, looking east as the sun of the spring equinox rose over a deep valley. Behind him, the blue moon was just setting under the western waves.
“Hello sun, goodbye moon”, he said, and watched all the interesting things that were happening down on the ground below and up in the sky above.
One evening a long time later, Raven was sitting in the same tree, looking west toward the setting sun of the autumn equinox. Far below, the crashing waves seemed more like flames than water. Behind him, the blue moon was just beginning to rise over the valley.”Hello sun, goodbye moon”, he said. Then he jumped off the branch and fell down and down and down, and just before he hit the water he turned himself into an orca whale. He swam and swam, watching all the interesting things that were happening under the water.
One night a long time later, Raven the whale remembered to look up. It was very dark, with no moon in the sky, and the stars were hard and bright in the deep winter cold. He didn’t recognize these stars, but he thought they were beautiful anyway.
Still, he missed his favorite maple tree. He turned himself into a salmon so he could find his way home, and he swam and swam for a long long time until he reached the mouth of a river that tasted just right. Swimming up the river, he let himself be caught in the nets of the People so they could smoke him and eat him, and he could listen to the stories and songs they told and sang to each other.
Later, when they threw out the bones, he turned himself into himself again and flew back up to his maple tree and landed on a high branch, looking east just as the sun of the spring equinox rose over the valley. Behind him, the blue moon was just setting under the western waves.
“Hello sun, goodbye moon”, he said.