Sentiments of the Southwest #2

Another entry for Mish’s prompt to write poems about the Southwest inspired by her photographs. I did a haibun for this based on an experience during university, years ago. Mish’s photo reminds me of the Badlands.

Names Under the Stars
“Come home with me after we finish here. Come meet my mom, my people.” We had left the campsite along with another student and carefully climbing, made our way to the kiva we had explored earlier that day. Cold black night lit only by the galaxy of stars and the huge full moon. We sat in the bottom, smell of fresh soil and mold around us. Griff smelled as he always did of amber and patchouli. Beth moved closer to him for warmth as did I. But he was speaking to me. “This is a night that calls for smoke.” And so he pulled out a small pipe and charged with fragrant sensemilla buds. Long and slow he drew in the smoke as he held the match over a now glowing bed of red. “In the smoke, there can be only truth.” Nakota Sioux, Griff took this seriously. He held in the smoke long and then passed the small pipe to me. And then I to Beth, who choked before giving the pipe back to him.

The unsilence around us hummed: bats, the slither of lizards or a snake, the tiny chirp of a searching desert mouse, a slough of wind through the caves. Above, the stars glowed. The Milky Way in its endless swirl, the light finally reaching us on its ages old journey. Griff put his arm around my shoulders, “Come with me home to Pine River Reservation. Come and have a breakfast of fry bread and honey from my uncle’s bees, toast made from government cheese and government dried milk in our coffee.” The words were bitter but his voice was calm. “We all of us ranged this land. Until we were cheated and murdered and driven onto useless lands. I am a child of the Badlands.” I shivered and looked again up at the ancient stars who had witness all the evils of the earth. And had witnessed good. I pulled my wooden flute from the small pack I carried. “I’ll go. We’ll read the names on the memorial. We’ll clean up trash.”. He laughed. “Yes we will. You know, my real name? Have I told you? I’m named after Number 75 – Strong Fox.” I began to play a soft tune for the stars above me who knew all of those whose names were on the memorial. All one hundred and eighty-five.

The names are those of
Families – men women children –
Frozen in death in harsh snow.

copyright by Mish. Used by permission.

copyright by Mish. Used by permission.

25 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Björn Rudberg (brudberg)
    May 04, 2016 @ 00:51:40

    This is a stunning memory. Coming so close to those terrible stories, the flute and stars. I must get back and read it again and again,


  2. navasolanature
    May 04, 2016 @ 04:28:27

    This is a wonderful description of the beauty and horror that has happened to a place and its people. Full of immediate feelings and observations and then the link to the terrible devastation.


  3. Sanaa Rizvi
    May 04, 2016 @ 11:03:45

    Beautifully haunting ❤


  4. Patti
    May 04, 2016 @ 13:55:32

    This is so powerful and haunting. As a descendent of early immigrants, I carry a burden of guilt for what they did to those here before us.


  5. writersdream9
    May 04, 2016 @ 15:20:00

    I thoroughly enjoyed this! It is either well researched or experienced. Love it!


  6. Mish
    May 04, 2016 @ 19:08:29

    The photo IS the badlands so I believe it was meant for you to tell us this poignant story. So many wonderful lines but I like ” The unsilence around us hummed” and “The Milky Way in its endless swirl, the light finally reaching us on its ages old journey.”
    I love that he wanted to share his culture so eagerly. There is respect, openness and curiosity…everything key to understanding and walking in another’s shoes. Those connections we make are so enriching and memorable.
    Thank you for this beautiful haibun. It feels like a blessing to have read it.


  7. Victoria C. Slotto
    May 04, 2016 @ 19:15:20

    The unsilence around us hummed…I know of what you speak. Such a powerful account, Toni–this makes me want to drum.


    • kanzensakura
      May 04, 2016 @ 20:35:57

      There was a pow wow when we went. The drums vibrated all down my spine. I watched my friend dance with his family, friends, members of some other tribes. It was thrilling. At one point in one of the dances, he pulled me in to dance. I was so honored to be allowed to dance for that time. The connection to the earth and the spirits around was beyond description. I can still sing the sacred words. That young man is no longer thjn but his hair is still past his waist, streaked with white. He has taught his children the sacred dances, songs, and heritage. His fisrt grandchild, a girl, is named after number 160, Mercy to Others.


  8. Grace
    May 04, 2016 @ 20:41:05

    Wow, what a story Toni, I was really touched by this ~ This is a great tribute to those souls we have forgotten and forsaken ~


  9. whimsygizmo
    May 04, 2016 @ 22:59:33

    Ah-MAZING memory, Toni. I was with you through the whole story. And I LOVE this:
    “The unsilence around us hummed”


  10. lillian
    May 05, 2016 @ 09:33:35

    You’ve given pen to a beautiful memory – a haunting memory – and its effect touches us all in unsettling ways. We forget as we live day to day…of the peoples who lived on this land before “we came.” I’ve always found it unsettling that we call these indigenous peoples “native Americans” — since America was a name given to the land by those who came after.
    I’m so very glad you shared this story with us. It is one that should be written down in a journal and shared year after year with your family.


    • kanzensakura
      May 05, 2016 @ 12:12:28

      It seems this is a great conversation among the People, lots of debate and argument. My friend prefers his his tribal designation followed by his name. He does reject Native American for his says anyone born here is native to America. I don’t care about being PC, I just want to be respectful and acknowledging. It is hard considering what *we* have done. I am the end of my family. When I die, that is it. Unless I become famous, no one will care.


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