Ghost Dance

(for Michon Eben)


Carolyn Dunn

I. Wovoka

It is a vision
which forces my words.
Nameless, faceless
whose breath
form wisps of spirit
and horses
whose hoofs
herald the sound
of thunder
over Pyramid Lake.
It is a vision
which propels my words.
My breath
forms incantations
the names
the names
no one can speak
not even myself.
His words pass through me
I the mouthpiece
of the prophet.
It's alright
he whispers
his voice breaking forth
pushing at the hollow rim
of my eyes,
tearing at the fabric
that is my ears.
The dances form
following my feet
following in a vision
along the lake
the water breathes
like fire it passes
along the grass beneath my feet

dancing across the plains
the rocks, mountains, dense forests
to the south
where vision forms in dust,
in rocks,
houses of sand,
mud and clouds;
they carry the vision
fire on my breath---
the words I speak
become the truth.

II. Tenskwatawa (The Open Door)

Shawnee Prophet
my words carry
on the wind
through deep dark needles
dark and soft wet earth
across breathless dry canyons
dark deep desert skies
across oceans of stars
and I speak
the truth.
They dance my name
a dance that will speak
the ancestors' words
on the lips of
Spoken in a language they
will not know
my dreams become truth
open eyed
visions of dust
that takes flight
over breathless dry canyons
whispers upon the wind
making waves upon
oceans of stars
who speak the truth.

III. Sarah Winnemucca

The fire
slides down my throat
pours through my lungs
and bursts for air
in blood
washing through my body
until I am numb
in its flames.
Flames curl my toes,
apart from my body
moving up my knees
my thighs
the place they come together
to where my woman's fire
left unattended
has long become ash.
long sleeping
like the language forced
from my lips.
The fire comes up
once again
rages against my body
until it is purged
going where
it came from
to begin with.
Clear and cold
I stand to greet the
morning air
fire on my breath
and I am clear
in my haze
I have a memory
of feet upon the fire
of grasslands
and forest pines
forced straight from the
wet earth.
I have a memory
of children dancing
soft footsteps

stomp on the air
brining up the dust
and ash
which moves up the air
in wind
carrying the ash
to the stars.
I have a memory
which bears through
the whiskey razed eyes
pictures sending tolerance
my way.
If I close my eyes
I can hear their songs
moving through stars
and castles of mountains
and drifting air.
But when I open my eyes
they are gone
and the sunlight
shimmering on the lake
just the ghosts
shadows created in sunlight
remain pressed against
my eyelids
and once again
I can see them
but without whiskey
cannot speak.

IV. Stone Mother

Pressing your mouth
my teeth run across
the soft, wet red part
where your words fall
from behind ash driven
I blow the dust away
and they are just words.

Unladen now
they fly from the grave
ghosts reaching for stars
the soft wet red part
born again.
It is that part
of a man which aches to be
born again
I cradle the ghosts
in my mouth
catch them from the air,
speaking tongues
languages from a dream
with words known only
to the ghosts
I open my mouth to yours.
Your tongue forces them
with a gentle push
to be born.
They breathe
this starlit
dry canyon---
deep, desert air
and along the river bank,
up to the banks of this Stone Child lake
I can hear the sounds of footsteps
touching the earth
in the distance
the echo grows softer
until I can feel it
within my mouth
I have a memory
a song who wants to be heard
it forces me open
until I sing
and the ghosts
force themselves out on a breath
of dust and ash,
touch the earth
and form a new song
one with words older
than this place

they open their newborn eyes
and see
with the eyes
of their children.

From Outfoxing Coyote, That Painted Horse Press.

© 2001 Carolyn Dunn

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