Sara Judy '11
Clay-colored men outlined in the thick smoke;
I will hold them in my hair. The morning's
water frees them. My sweet grass ghosts, mourning
feet that touch the ground while moon shine coaxes
the beat out from resin-hard skin drums. Beads cloak
the arms of dancers, feet are offerings
painted red in dust and sweat, mixed. Cêskwa
I will tell you a story: what sleep softens.
In my dream I squat like a squaw, hunched up
over my ankles. And when I wake up
the sheets are wet, you are a still vision,
you become a soft woman, beside me.
I follow your spine in living worship.
I’ve never been in love with a woman.
I’ve never been in love with a woman,
(I can see that you are not a woman)
but when you ask me, kapîsin, and touch
my breast soft as new leather, breathing such
that I can hear the distance between us
and sky. Endless prairie, suffocating sky.
I sleep in the dust of the arena, in the dust I lay,
in places tamped down from frantic dances
and frightened cattle weeping hot skin,
black cow eyes, beads rather, I remember
them red. I remember yellowed feathers
that were mostly black. I find one, worn thin,
under my body, think that must be why
I can’t sleep, not because of your absence.
I can’t sleep, not because of your absence,
but because the wind will not leave my hair.
No, not my hair. It bends through the wheat spires,
those thin reedy women stand crowded, present
visions to fill the eye even at night,
singing we will be cut down soon. Thresher,
combine, saying them even tastes finite.
Hiding in red morning clouds, horror
lives here, too. Watching the dangerous sky,
Omisi, I will show you what they do:
while we are pierced and bound, metal mouths chew
into earth. You circle the pole four times,
ignore the spin of combine teeth, undone
for the whistle of a bird’s hollow bone.
For the whistle of a bird’s hollow bone;
why do we insist on better reasons?
I long for the nights alone on the plains,
reaching for the milk-blue and yellow moon.
Visions come from the yarrow, whitlow-grass,
Moon is an illusion; they light themselves.
Instead I had those painted nights with you–
naked, too smooth. When I reached for you, passed
my hands to you across the dark bedroom
the quilt appeared to me, but no visions.
My elbow lifts me to the window, watching
I pretend to see a fox move, so low
that all I have is his grey back flexing.
The skin-taut moon is very much herself.
The skin-taut moon is very much herself.
I push at the smoke. My hands move through it
as if it were a ghost, clothed in red bands
cast off from the fire. The sparks live, fly lit
to be reflected in eyes and glass beads.
I should get up for the dance, but I sit,
watch figures move in rings, the moon recedes.
The night takes over my eyes, barely lit
figures move to re-light the fire, to coax
away darkness. I tried singing, but spoke
to myself instead; tired woman, rise.
Wâpiw, can you see them? I strain my eyes
to see, profiled against one sky’s expanse,
three men moving, outlined in the thick smoke.
Three men, moving outlined, in the thick smoke;
they will do this again tomorrow. Beating
drums that start down low, deep inside my chest
the circle passes with wide steps, bent heads.
How do they know what to do with their hands?
I never know. Their feathers blur, never rest.
This pains me, so I walk out to the vendors.
A large, old woman, dressed in jeans tells me
her dream catchers cost a dollar for four.
Their red beads are questions, or no, just beads.
I drink a warm canned soda and move bees
away from my face with slow, awkward hands.
If you were here would you buy the promise
of quiet sleep? Of a night without visions?
Of quiet sleep, of a night without visions,
would you sing to me? Wash the smoke over
your body. I have heard you make the pledge:
braided sweet grass, four days without water.
Wail in early morning, meet in the woods
to make your war against ceremony.
The men will sing with you, show you how to
close your eyes, to not look at the women,
hanging your red strips of cloth in the trees.
Focus on your hands and the thirsting sun.
When we met, you let me ask a question:
What do you think to do by catching me?
Holding my arm you brought me out, saying
Kiya niya. Yes, but only for a while.
I am yours, yes. But only for a while
can you keep me. Outside the painted dreams
I lose myself. Under your sky, I find
that I never belonged to you. I came
out from fields, milkweed and cone-flower; all
my red petals hang down, drag in the clay.
That is to say, I am from the expanse
between destinations. Stay too long, risk
my body to the fields of gumweed, sam-
phire, all gone to seed. Here they burn fires
for the night’s dance, collect embered feathers;
women paint visions across their cheekbones,
see sparks flying up and think: Manitou.
I lied to you; give me back to the moon