Turning

By Wendy Rose b. 1948 Wendy Rose
The song is Gaelic now,
peridot words
the color of fresh
timothy gathered
by red-haired women;
or the song
is the bony white oak
and rhythm of Miwu,
a knowing that breathes
against angles of granite
and meets the ground
in a flurry of sound.
Or the song rides down from a star
over burgundy boulders
beneath a dazzling blue sky
to find the old words
buried deep in the earth.

But this heart listens.
This song. Hi-tsah-tsi-nah,
the precious rain awakening.

On this you come
as a prayer in the flesh,
on this you ride
with the roll and rollick
of rattlesnake.
On this you sing
volcanic birthing words
and obsidian cools where
the blood bubbles down.

          Oh look, a little girl is lost
          although she stands close
          to her mother’s heart.
          With great energy she scrapes
          the missionaries from her ribs.
          Shoulder blades curve
          around the spine
          and the pestle dances,
          acorns flying,
          and dust collects
          in the creases
          of her hands. Or

     she is kneeling in a small room
     at the edge of the mesa,
     polished black bone of earth,
     cherished piki stone,
     moving back and forth
     this act of love, grinding
     the corn until it is dark,
     brushing the white cornmeal
     into one basket, the blue
     into another, thinking already
     of the daughters she will bear
     glowing in the sun.

Or she is standing at the bog
inside a mountain meadow,
hands raised up to tie back her hair
with a thin red rag; seeds loosen
and cling to her shoes, her stockings,
her long skirt, her skin.
She fearlessly walks
through gold fiddleneck,
small mountain lupines, clouds
of white popcorn flowers fallen upward
out of the ground
to cover the hillside
like snow. Or
          a woman gathers loop after loop
          of heavy rope to guide the head
          of the horse she straddles and sometimes
          she is the mare and the soft sandstone
          and the hot rocks rolling in acorn soup,
          trying to heal the gash spread across her path
          where the crescent moon has sliced the earth.
          Ocean to mountain to mesa, the bundle she carries
          is a sacred memory, a rainbow that arches
          from one side of the sky to the other.

Or a woman is closing
a steamer trunk, has to sit on it hard
to get the latch through and
the leather buckled; seagulls dive
outside the wall of the ship, she
hears their demands, maybe one
has come inside to brush her cheek
with its pointed wing or maybe
just another tear warmed by cooling blood.

How she aches in the cold, she is so thin;
and when she pulls the blanket around her
and lies down on the floor, she is no more
than a pile of old rags, a few sticks of firewood,
a broken broom. Steady against the roll of the sea
she is patient as the rocks that wait for the ship
along a northern corridor, angry as the storms
midway across the Atlantic that shake their fists
at those who must leave home, and as deeply hidden
as the icebergs that threaten to disembowl.
She has already seen the world dissolve;
now she feels the breaking
of one last thread
to ancestral land,
feels the very break
of it.

Wendy Rose, “Turning” from Itch Like Crazy. Copyright © 2002 by Wendy Rose. Reprinted by permission of University of Arizona Press.

Source: Itch Like Crazy (University of Arizona Press, 2002)

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Poet Wendy Rose b. 1948

POET’S REGION U.S., Southwestern

Subjects Nature, Landscapes & Pastorals, Arts & Sciences, Music

Biography

Wendy Rose, born Bronwen Elizabeth Edwards in Oakland, California, is of Hopi, Miwok, and European descent. An artist, writer, and anthropologist, she is the author of the poetry collections Academic Squaw: Reports to the World from the Ivory Tower (1977); What Happened When the Hopi Hit New York (1982); The Halfbreed Chronicles and Other Poems (1985); Lost Copper (1980), which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize; and Bone Dance: . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Nature, Landscapes & Pastorals, Arts & Sciences, Music

POET’S REGION U.S., Southwestern

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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