Say licked clean at birth. Say
weeping in the tall grass, where
this tantalizing song begins,
birds perched on a crooked branch
over a grave of an unending trek
into the valley of cooling waters.
The soil’s thirst, lessons of earth
unmoor the first tongue. Say
I have gone back, says the oracle,
counting seasons & centuries, undoing fault
lines between one generation & next,
as she twirls sackcloth edged with pollen,
& one glimpses what one did not know. Say
this is where the goat spoke legends ago
in the ring of fire to deliver a sacrifice.
To feel signs depends on how & why
the singer’s song puckers the mouth.
Well, I believe the borrowed rib
story is the other way round, entangled
in decree, blessing, law & myth. One
only has to listen to nightlong pleas
of a mother who used all thousand
chants & prayers of clay, red ocher
blown from the mouth onto the high
stone wall, retracing land bridge
to wishbone. My own two daughters
& granddaughter, the three know how
to work praise & lament, ready to sprout
wings of naked flight & labor. Yes,
hinged into earth, we rose from Lucy
to clan, from clan to tribe, & today
we worship her sun-polished bones,
remembering she is made of questions.
No, mama is not always the first word
before counting eggs in the cowbird’s
nest. It begins in memory. Now, say
her name, say Dinknesh, mother of us all.