February 2010 - Comments Off on Visions After Gathering

Visions After Gathering

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

Published by: in Poetry, Volume 66, Volume 66: Issue 1

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