Friday, April 11, 2014

Seize the Lightning

 —Photo by Robert Lee Haycock, Antioch

—Roberta Hill Whiteman

              for Susan Iron Shell

When night shadows slipped across the plain, I saw a man
beside his horse, sleeping where neither man nor horse
had been.  I've prayed
to a star that lied. The spirits near the ceiling of your room,
did they leave on horseback, turning dew into threads
by moonlight?
In wild stretch of days, you didn't fear ashes or weeping.
We, left behind, can't warm sunlight.
Isaac, you left with the wind.

The chokecherry grows slower. I held your trembling wife,
and windows trembled in our north room. The creek gnaws
remaining snow. Our blood runs pale.
You taught us to be kind to one another. Now we wake, questioning
our dreams. Nighthawks in warm fog. A nation wrapped in stone.
What do nurses
know of hay, of scents that float broken between canyons,
of strength in a worn face? You wept love, not death.
Around your bed, owls stood.

The north wind hunts us with music, enough pain
to set fires in ancient hills. West winds growl
around Parmalee.
The tanned, uneven banks will hold more frost. Unlike dust
we cannot die from tears. You've settled
on a quiet prairie. Shrouded eyes
in thickets give a reason to contain
this heavy rind. We are left with grief, sinking boneward,
and time to watch rain soak the trees.


—Roberta Hill Whiteman

When the last bus leaves, moths stream toward lights
like litter in wind. One by one, bulbs dim. The ticket man
locks up, talks of ancestors pale from dreaming.
In this corner, sleep is ugly, the moon vigilant.
Here, hatred taps along sidewalks. He dreams
of wild buses and the one percent he cannot see. You look
down corridors, where building edges whirr at the night,
to find an aged Indian gnawing glass.
Businessmen rub the medicine stones, and wear
crisp smiles that wrinkle in daylight. Muffled,
the heartbeat continues, abandoned stars haunt
the reservations. Clear as tracks,
are callings and cold signals on the wind.


—Roberta Hill Whiteman

Women know how to wait here.
They smell dust on wind and know you haven't come.
I've grown lean walking along dirt roads,
under a glassy sun, whispering to steps.
Twenty years I've lived on ruin. When I escaped
they buried you. All that's left is a radio
with a golden band. It smells of heat,
old baseball games, a shimmering city inside.
The front door has stopped banging and the apple tree
holds an old tire strange children swing in.

This house with broken light has lost me
now when the sweet grass dries. Its scent lingers
in the living room among sewing and worn-out shoes.
In your silence, I grew visions for myself, and received
a name no one could live up to. Blood rises
on hot summer wind, rose petals trickle
past rough solemn wood. Hear the distant sobbing?
An Indian who's afraid of tears. She charms her eyes
to smiling, waits for the new blue star. Answers
never come late.

Look west long enough, the moon will grow
inside you. Coyote hears her song, he'll teach you now.
Mirrors follow trails of blood and lightning.
Mother needs the strength of one like you. Let blood
dry, but seize the lightning. Hold it like your mother
rocks the trees. In your fear, watch the road, breathe deeply.
Indians know how to wait.



—Photo by Robert Lee Haycock