Dream Shepherd

Under night.
Night touches the dark tracks
of pine
rooting in the between-worlds,
there rouses spirits
once called tricksters
once called teachers.

Now they only frighten us,
so we tell stories
of how they might condemn us.

I hear the whip-or-will.
It sings from the first moment
of utter dark
to the first moment
of pregnant light.
My tracks are soundless
and take flight
in the dusky shadows
as doves
or peregrines,
birds that may take my
step to dream heights.

The night world and the world
of dream
are not separated,
but are like two silver paths
who meet in a center
at a crossroads.

Dreams
are made
from the breathing void
and they fly on the wings of bats
into our dozing heads.
There are shepherds, who in that world
guide their dream flock

to crossroads
that see no false light
that do not bare the stamp of man
we find the places of soul offering
portals we cannot cross.
My soul is a portal tonight
that all may cross.

A shepherd,
staff in hand,
points the way over sleep-green knolls
into vernal waters where
he knows nightmares are to be fished.
The flock posesses a unity
swims through the dark river
of nothing
their bevy dancing through ether
colored like flashing coins of deja-vu.

Everything lives under the moon now.

Tonight my soul is open.
I cannot hold a grudge
when power is glistening
in every blade of sedge grass
every trembling bulrush.
Tonight, on the waters
glowbugs haunt
and the ghosts gawk at the beauty,
taking small souls in jars.
Tonight my soul is open.
I do not fear the dark
but am wary at the sound
of footsteps approach

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Deer Hunting

Are you on fire in whales skin?
Sparkling, are you spitting?
My love is gone from the skin I’m in
rattling round, making viscous din
the object of my wandering down
to the creek where it was that I first found
something to hold in my eyes and both
a stalk of corn, clouds to roast
despite the risk it entails I’ll propose
we commit ourselves to the task at hand
of handing over our baggage, we land
and I meet you there with open arms
you were there for me when may come harm
snakes don’t scare me, but paranoias deep
I look over shoulders, most nights I can’t sleep
and if I never read the horoscope
horsetail would still fall in hexagon scope
and the mystic would laugh and tell me a lie
and watch me with his wide third eye
so I’ll take you with me to fire a gun
into the flesh of an earthen prize
that causes the flesh to prickle, rise
and that is why I will not lie
most of the time
that is why I will not lie
most of the time

First Monday in Boreal Time

Time sings in the forest
places have their songs
linear melodies break down
a cadence solders
but the melody might as well be
water
or sky
what it sounds like where they meet
I come to crossroads
crossing streams
horizon rushing on toward
aurora
boreal time signatures
are like wings on falcons
time dives and reaches
cloud-sewn peaks
nothing and then
hours, disappearing days,
arriving nights;
those moonsun temples
you cannot stay in one song
long.
Everything has a song
and we are the cherubim,
and we lament so that
evil sounds beautiful
by its beauty it is conquered.
From dark bogs
static spirits flash in peripherals
eyes detect the spirit but
concrete minds shut out
a million shades of one note
leave the angels suspended
the spirits half cocked.

Blood Fortunes

“Blood Fortune”

 

just one prayer:

take my brittle bones

scattered in jack pines.

do you know this kind of isolation

can you speak a name into the wind and have it be

or hash out the workings of your fortune

for the fortune is of your blood?

my blood is black and oily, and it does not know

gold

 

just one prayer: hoist me above the world, so that

looking down, I can see the looks of their faces

and catch their floating candles. hear my

delirious eulogy, probably pregnant with

lies

 

wrong turns brought me here. she tells me

discreetly, senses my weakness. over gaunt cups

of burnt coffee, her face is very serious

talk about

things in your soul that conspire to kill you

to end your life with brittle and ancient

precision

sounds of a bolt action, the steel parts falling into place

firing pin cradling its love, ignitions.

suicide dreams on beautiful black afternoons

where I can comprehend the terrible in ways that

only invalids and crazies

imagine

 

in the end most of our lives

come down

to the things we tried to buck early on

and if you aren’t shoved into the pits

when it counts,

then it’s exactly like swimming

against a thousandfold currents.

there are fine membranes in sanity

cut too close and you may tear

the savory tissue, the razor thin

tallow lining; and then cannibals will

devour the spoils

 

just one prayer:

bring me to the womb of the earth

I can’t remember anything but her anymore

my life looks like the bald and scorched prairie

they say, “you’re young”

I say, “I’m dead, when will I die”

“don’t talk like that”

“don’t talk at all,” is my reply

Wave Goodbye, Waves

under the royal star

she raked her fingers through earth

bone on bone,

calm as the lake was calm

so that no one could speak it,

questions,

who built this basalt cliff?

this Precambrian universe at the verge

of the north,

where you can smell the world

like a city stench

or place polluted

and to go back seems

ludicrous

unnecessary?

 

she picked up two pieces of

igneous art, and tossed them

into the water of two hundred rivers

two thousand streams

she was old;

gray hair

and decades here

someone put their hand on her

shoulder,

told her, “don’t be sad anymore,”

but the sadness would stay,

and the falcon flew

splitting a sunrise into

mirror equators

of fire,

marooning her soul,

a little.

 

could she be different this time

how it would affect her in ways

that grounded her, held her

head towards the sky, where

dark spires only scraped

a brittle ionosphere,

pavement whispered threats

and billboards said the opposite

of what they meant

and everyone knew enough people

that one could be replaced

like a tire, or upholstery

 

no human could replace that,

she fathomed, and in that sense alone

staring at the void of sea

gichigami

timelessness became tangible

apparent, bald as the cliff face

braided like cedar bark

she was among it now

nothing could replace

the sorrow

Star Harvest

harvest the stars

to sugar bush moon songs

wavering

at the verge of no one knows

teach the child

say old things to her

to him too

carry on like

white pine brother

coyote sister

pretend into the world

a peace again,

wildness, stout

chaos. chronicle

follies, where victory

may shine over

tragedy, but

let tragedy ascend

victorious

in child eyes

imagine into the world

a heart of possibility,

to hear like a drum

in the absence of

wild songs

Ghosts of Gull Lake

Protect your spirit, for you are in the place where spirits get eaten.

-John Trudell

 

Went driving north

north of Pillager,

old lands of Hole-in-the-Day

around the bluffs

of Old Gull Lake.

truth is,

 

I am a white man.

 

out a dandruff windshield

skeins of sun

there is the land of red clay

orange clay

iron in the blood

 

ghosts eke through FM stereo.

they pull the steering wheel.

 

under white pines I stop the car

they were saplings when

East Dakota people

on the move,

buried their dead.

 

or when the East Dakota and

The Chippewa and

The Winnebago

transfigured into wolves

followed the sun to survive

westward, where begins

the bloody Mississippi.

 

from the red clay

to the white earth

 

then we almost killed all the wolves, too.

 

total silence, for just a moment,

as the forest eclipses the beach

to tease out the memories

draw out the ghosts

for precious little moments

feeble as sheets of mica.

 

abruptly the lakeshore is revealed

and of course

 

I am a white man:

 

great whites washed ashore

giants squids of industry

blubbery and viscid where they

belch oil on the beach

leave rainbows on the wakes

comes out their pores

satellite security systems

golf courses tailor-fit to fat asses

tailor-fit to democracy, the Imposition,

genocide of a thousand colors

ancestor portals and caribou;

passing mansions on sacred hills

where manitou woke yawning to

machine amoeba, gaping mouths

paralyzed myths where they lay

shivering.

resorts crop up, shoot roots through

tombs to kings;

history is as dead as the bison

as gone as the white-skinned First People

to the north-

 

even though they too had blue eyes

 

And so it is known

that what these resort homes

ranches and cabins

four story symphonies of death

spread over seventeen acres of rape

with water slides and daycares

pontoons and Potlatch

what they want to kill is not a pigment

they would like to kill something living

kill the Manitou

they would like to kill the Chippewa

they would like to kill the Dakota

 

I am white man on a drive

my name is not known to the lake

but ghosts tell me stories

of the white man’s undoing