Adapted from a Northwest coast legend
In First People's sky there is no moon.
The shaman stirs the vigil fires;
vague nights confuse the spirit's travels.
The smell of seaweed, pickled
red and brown in its own dark brine,
awakens the napping girl,
herfingers lazily burrowing
into heavy warm loam.
Behind her, the tangle
of thin, damp briers.
The island's trees and shrubs
hug tight the coastal rocks.
At her feet, small silver fish
flash likecrescents in the foam.
Into pools of water stones,
loosened berries fall
like red fish eggs.
She is the shaman's daughter,
the keeper of Moon and its Light.
She is the Girl with Medicine Eyes.
Raven's eyes lock tight in her skull.
His magic is sly.
From the berry thicket, a spiraling leaf
blesses her tongue.
Nestled in her womb, it grows.
When the child is born,
his nose is beaked.
Earth Children tremble, birds fly in circles.
Tides bend toward the woman's lodge
where the moon is a pale secret.
The baby screams unceasingly.
She is ready to tear out her long black hair.
She contemplates its noose-like possibilities.
The shaman plugs his ears. His beady-eyed grandson
caws, wrapped in a blanket of cedar.
The girl is desperate. Inside the braided basket
is a box, still as a cloud.
Box within a box within a box
each painted, inlaid with pearled
abalone shell and whale bone.
Lifting the Moon netting,
she shakes out fringes
of deer hooves and puff in beaks,
tossing the Moon
to her wild-eyed son.
He balances the milky sphere
between crooked lips.
He is quiet
for a moment
he wails, shrieks, squawks
(she is so tired!) points
to the boarded smoke hole.
Exhausted, she opens it. Like black water,
Night falls into her hands,
spilling into the lodge corners.
Her son smiles, sings, pulling feathers
from under his skin,
shaking out wings, blue-black, strong.
With Moon in his beak, Raven flies out,
flinging it past his curving wings,
far up into the sky.
Moon settles slowly, an embryo
in Night Maiden's belly.
In the village, the shaman's daughter
swallows the empty Moon boxes
where, like nesting hearts,
they enclose her emptiness.
When she dies, set adrift in cold waters,
shrouded in a blanket of Red Moons,
her body is guarded by gulls.
Raven listens, whistling in stunted trees.
© 2002 Anita Endrezze
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