The Shelter

William Spath

Toothless, the smiling moon looks down
guides my footsteps as I walk this river bottom's
lunar landscape, kicking up phantoms of the past;
their birth right this land I trespass.
Dakota, Nez Pierce, Comanche,
phantom of the breech cloth, of the birch bark,
of the soft moccasin tread, big medicine heard
in the whispers of the barren trees.

I walk not alone, but surrounded.

* * * * * * * *

Standing in front of the jackpine, two young men lust after its
straightness, the linear quality of its tall trunk, envisioning its place
among the others that have been ceremoniously taken to build the
teepee, they kneel to say prayer and blunder into a past
unexplored and filled with the truths of the generations that came

* * * * * * * *

Blue-eyed Aristotle of the desert, he sits, legs held captive by the steel
cage of a wheel chair, peyote cheiftain of the tribe, throne like from
the porch he sits throwing magic conceived in the womb of the
ancients; it turns our bowels into playthings, and holds us within the
path. Only she is allowed to continue, she who has business here,
once a potter's site, new light center, magic bus left-over, now an
altar for the worshipers from the valley below. Somehow he
knows, and we don't talk about it very much.

* * * * * * * *

Salvation Army center. Al the Indian shuffles off, he shuffles with a
looseness of limb, as if his joints are connected by strings, he makes
no sound, never makes a sound, he sleeps under two blankets even
though it's eighty outside, and he smells, smells like the earth and the
trees. Just got back from living outside he says, been living in the
woods between Ely and the big lake, been drinking that's what
brought him back. Uses the center like a rest stop, get some real
food, then be gone the rest of the summer. Moves real quiet, real quiet
at night, comes into the room, never stumbles like the rest of us.

* * * * * * * *

Mother earth searches for her own, whose circle
of worship she defined. Smell the smoke
from many fires, fires murmuring of many voices,
city of buffalo hides, of the proud,
of the believers.

I walk and listen to the memories of what once was.

Copyright 1995 Kaleidoscope. Write Place. Volume 6.
Contributors retain all rights to their work.