The Sacred Tree is Dead – d’Verse Poetics

Grace is tending pub for us today. She has given to us an incredible poetic performance and poem by Loyce Gayo who was born in Tanzania and currently pursuing a degree in African and African Diaspora Studies with a Minor in Mathematics at the University of Texas in Austin. Not a comfortable poem by any means. And I pray you are not comfortable reading/listening. We are prompted to write poetry today based on “How We Forget”.  Here is the link:  My poem is also linked here.  With deep respect, I submit my submission for this.

The Sacred Tree is Dead
“If you ever need a place to…to listen to the wind, we’ll be here”. Walter Crowhorse, “Thunderheart” movie
“It was a beautiful dream…the hoop is broken and scattered. There is no center any longer and the sacred tree is dead.” Black Elk, Lakota Sioux

We forget by herding a people and placing them on land
No one else would own or want.
We forget we are interlopers on the shores of the country
By riding down women and children with horses
And shooting them in the back or trampling them underfoot.
Bodies twisted in heaps on the prairie grass
Frozen in the snow.

We forget to live with the earth
By bulldozing it and burying it under asphalt and McMansions.
We poison the rivers and the air
And forget for we always ask – why?

We forget by keeping nations on boundaried land –
We forget by cutting hair and teaching English
We forget by forbidding the great dance
We forget by erecting a monument with a list of names
And burying the monument in weeds
And scattered ribbons.

public domain image

public domain image


28 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Björn Rudberg (brudberg)
    Sep 08, 2015 @ 16:11:09

    So much hidden under those tombstones, the darkness of what’s been done, there is intention and there is shame in that. And with those McMansions there is no hope yo ever get the prairie back…


    • kanzensakura
      Sep 08, 2015 @ 16:16:39

      The bodies were actually dumped into one huge mass grave and then later, the inscribed memorial erected. And darkness is still done. But we don’t like to remember. Forests, lakes, rivers, grasslands, animals…gone. Greed and love of power…


  2. Sanaa Rizvi
    Sep 08, 2015 @ 17:04:06

    We forget to live with the earth

    Yes unfortunately we are bent upon destroying mother earth and its valuable resources… Well penned.

    Lots of love,


  3. Grace
    Sep 08, 2015 @ 17:37:46

    I am sad when we poison our air & rivers, and still ask why??? How conveniently we forget it is “progress” and greed for more & more material things ~

    You also bring the irony of forgetting and remembering in your last 3 lines with:

    We forget by erecting a monument with a list of names
    And burying the monument in weeds
    And scattered ribbons.

    Thanks for being inspired by her performance Toni ~ Have a good week ~


    • kanzensakura
      Sep 08, 2015 @ 21:55:02

      It was a truly inspiring performance. Thank you for this and the prompt. When I first went to the Wojnded Knee monument, I was appalled at the condition it was in, especially knowing the bodies of the slaughtered had been tmbled into a mas grave there and then the mknument/grave stone erected. This is in the midst of a decrepit cemetary on the reservation.


  4. Ayala
    Sep 08, 2015 @ 17:53:46

    We forget …. Nice piece.


  5. Glenn Buttkus
    Sep 08, 2015 @ 18:16:06

    I think too many people in this country have selective memory, & choose to forget everything that points to their avarice, stupidity, bully politics, graft, racism & sexism. Your poem is well put, its message clear; a fine addition to this prompt. I like the line /we forget by forbidding the great dance/.


  6. Mary
    Sep 08, 2015 @ 18:46:22

    Ah, this is one of your strongest poems, I think. So true that we forget to live with the earth in the way that the people who lived here before us did. And I do hope that the time will come when the great dance can be seen anywhere in the land.


    • kanzensakura
      Sep 09, 2015 @ 12:28:27

      It is done now, but limited and in private settings. At powwows and such, there is ceremonial dances but not the Ghost Dance. It is not for pubic viewing. A friend of mine, full Lakota, returns at times to be with his family unit to visit, eat, and dance. He cuts quite a figure in his business suit with waistlength hair, even though he is stocky!


  7. lynn__
    Sep 08, 2015 @ 22:55:18

    Sadly, we cannot re-do history but we can do better by remembering…this is a powerful message! (note spelling of Sioux…we live in former Lakota territory here).


    • kanzensakura
      Sep 08, 2015 @ 23:04:26

      Thank you! I tried to be sure of the spelling. It is one word my brain refuses to wrap around. I’ll correct it in the morning. A good friend will give me much grief for it. He is Lakota and I know will let me know as well, shaking his finger at me and frowning. I am beyond sleepy at this time. No, we cannot redo and we do need to do what we can to improve the situation.


  8. katiemiafrederick
    Sep 09, 2015 @ 11:35:02

    Hi friend.. i remember my ancestors
    great great grandfather full blooded
    Sioux.. and Cherokee on the other
    half of maternal side.. i remember
    the dance after culture of the
    white man takes it away..
    my eyes are
    my skin
    is red..
    my dance
    is true
    WE live
    AGAIN.. AS
    and i for
    onE aM
    the Ghost
    red and white and
    friend.. the white man’s
    days are numbered
    but he too.. like me..
    is Friend.. for NOW..:)


    • kanzensakura
      Sep 09, 2015 @ 11:44:39

      Someone remarked to me that they wished the Ghost dance would return and be done again. I laughed and told them they might not want that. The dance was to bring back the buffalo but also to drive out the white man so to be careful for what they asked. Although my ancestors came from England and Ireland to settle on the coast, there has been some intermarriage with the Occoneechee nation. It has made for an independent and group of people. Between the wild Celt tribe and the Occoneechee, we have turned out ok. Not much for dancing but incredible musicians and barbecuers. Grin.


      • katiemiafrederick
        Sep 09, 2015 @ 12:02:49

        Ah.. we have some more in common then.. Kanzensakura.. as my Grandfather an Irish Priest is born in Ireland.. migrating here.. at a Parish in Taylor county Florida.. a noted author.. and eventually a Protestant Evangelist out to convert Catholics as a life mission.. as an editor of a magazine named the converted Catholic from Christ Missions in New York New York.. too..

        His father from Germany.. his mother from England.. and his wife my grandmother Cajun from Louisiana settling in his parish.. and too beautiful to stay Catholic Priest for him.. haha!.. A reason for my existence hehe..;)

        But anyway.. yeah.. until i get out in the Sun and tan so well.. i am about as white as they come in so-called Blonde Aryan look.. but that wild indigenous spirit lives in me… that i truly believe lives in all of us.. as mostly our forager ancestors live around 12 thousand years ago.. that is a drop in the bucket of classical evolution.. that can change with a drop of serious challenge in epigenetic way.. as domesticated man.. can become wild and free again.. like that wolf dog from one of my favorite books in childhood.. the Call of the Wild.. by Jack London.. where my tears are not just for the wolf dog.. but Fred Dog too.. smiles..

        I see the world as one race of human beings.. and of course science agrees too.. with the weight of the slow rise of classical evolution.. but true as far as skin deep goes.. the globe is mixing.. and the more tan folks who continue to follow the way of churches and family unit cohesion.. continue to populate the earth more than secular so-called western whiter more ‘professional’ ways of life.. so the world will not only continue to turn more brown.. it will also continue to turn more with traditional religions.. as also indicated in recent Pew Polls in the coming decades..

        But there is a conundrum of sorts there as well.. as while family values are of upmost important where parents stay together and nurture the trusting loving literal connections of the brain and body in empathy balance that make an upstanding citizen of Love in this world.. over-population is a major cause of human suffering.. and the middle way to me.. seems to be acceptance in the Catholic and Islam churches for effective birth control.. and the common sense.. that

        YES.. there is no longer a need to populate the earth for survival as there once is.. but tradition rides strong.. so we are probably still another generation away from that positive change.. but it is coming.. as GOD does work in mysterious ways.. that eventually balances all things GOD out that includes us and all other animals and creation of course..

        Smiles.. K.. this is the most inspiring poem so far.. here today.. and truly my second choice of what i will write about too.. beyond the basic loss of empathy in the human race that i fear the world of screen addictions can bring to those who do not connect like this in poetry and just play video games and such as that.. smiles.. and thank you..:)


        • kanzensakura
          Sep 09, 2015 @ 12:12:26

          Sounds interesting. I think it will make for an excellent poem of thoughts. There is still time on Mr. linky. I am glad this poem has helped inspire you and brought up some things we all seem to forget…tradition, walking softly on Mother Earth, being truly free, our connections to each other. I’m off to pick fresh figs for making preserves, drying, and a few to savor while fresh and sweet. A long time family tradition.


  9. Raivenne
    Sep 09, 2015 @ 13:08:29

    “We forget to live with the earth
    By bulldozing it and burying it under asphalt and McMansions.”

    Yes. I was riding upstate and I remembered this open field that had a tree by the road. I don’t know why it fascinated me, but I always remembered to look for when travelling in there. I felt so heartbroken when we zoomed past the area because we did not recognize it. Part of the field is gone, making path for a new road way.


  10. Sherry Blue Sky
    Sep 09, 2015 @ 13:21:34

    I love this response to the prompt, and it is a topic that is close to my heart. We forget North America was built on the blood and bones of its original inhabitants, and we keep them out of sight so we can go on believing the North American Dream isnt a nightmare.


    • kanzensakura
      Sep 09, 2015 @ 13:47:13

      We focus on other groups and as always, the Native Americans get the fuzzy end of the stick. This way, we salve our concious and ignore the lump of stuff we swept under the rug and continue to keep there.


  11. whimsygizmo
    Sep 09, 2015 @ 15:12:02

    That last stanza is spectacular. “We forget by…” YES.


  12. mishunderstood
    Sep 10, 2015 @ 16:49:57

    A very clear message expressed with respect and eloquence. I work on a First Nations reservation and part of my job is to help promote the language and culture that has been lost. It is a privilege and honour to be allowed that opportunity.
    I love your poem. 🙂


  13. el34ax7
    Sep 10, 2015 @ 21:41:51

    As an Oklahoman, this one hits quite literally close to home. My wife is also Native American, and we both struggle with a sort of ethnic identity while being unequivocally culturally “American.” There’s a great deal of cultural ‘cleansing’ and assimilating that has happened, and that can be as devastating as any physical violence.

    This poem brought back those feelings into the forefront for me, and reminds me to look at my new homeland in similar lights. There’s a lot my new adopted home needs to confront, and, like many of those back home, I don’t see it happening soon.

    I had to reread this one after the “figs” poem since it brought me back to Oklahoma. I try to hide from my homeland, kind of like sweeping it all under the rug; exactly what I shouldn’t be doing.

    I have missed your words so very much.


    • kanzensakura
      Sep 10, 2015 @ 22:12:41

      Don’t be a stranger! :-). In university, I spent several summers working I’m SD as part of a culture/language recovery assistance program. It was an honor and privilege for me – a life changer and eye opener and has remained so for me. We have much to deal with here but this is one group that seems to be persistently forgotten, to our shame. Other groups clamor and demand and get. It is a righting that is long overdue. We have Occoneechee woven into our mad family tapestry. Not all the roots of the sacred tree have shriveled.


  14. M
    Sep 11, 2015 @ 03:54:07

    there was a recent photographic essay that I saw on the newyorkerphoto instagram page, when the photographer Daniella Zalcman hosted it for a week – she posted images and stories of survivors of Canada’s Indian Residential Schools. harrowing and infuriating tales of systematic abuse and destroyed lives – emblematic of the larger scale degradation and despoiling perpetrated at the hands of the lords of oil and banking. we chase beauty… away, as it turns out, and its replacement has bad hair makes putrid noises about ‘making america great again’. as if. ~


    • kanzensakura
      Sep 11, 2015 @ 14:46:58

      As if indeed. I do not know of Canadian atrocities but am all too aware of our own and haved worked some language/culture/recovery programs while in university and only too willing to give what my husband calls THE Lecture.


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