She had a death in me, knees drawn up
and my bowl and cloth rinsed through with her.
As morning takes night, field closes the hare,
and ay would burrow into her.
Over the altar, catalpas rattle,
shadow and bother the branch.
Is this her white? Dress me.
Her rain? Wash me with that.
Her bowl? Feed me empty.
Her colding? Ay am forgot.
Then mask me the g’wen, hers skin
being mine, and body that pools
in the brine of her, rivers the silt and stone of her
wrapt in the warm of hers fell.
She were the watcher and tender of pyres
when the wet grass shined with quiet
and ay lean to the mouth hole: ay, mother.
FOOTNOTES: The Us is a formally fractured poetic sequence spoken by a chronically nomadic people. A member of the group (Ay) dramatizes the coming to self-consciousness of an individual in the group.—JH
Source: Poetry (December 2008).