Note: this poem was written in conjunction with making vessels for its eponymous ceramic installation project. I am writing a song-cycle in concert with the regular contemplative practice of making water vessels.
This, the first of these poems, was written in early 2017.
(pronounced kee-choh in Lakota): to call to; to invite
Please come walk with me
in this place I have staked
For our two rivers to meet.
Let us not be ghosts to one another
for all our ideas are ghosts.
Please come walk with me while our two rivers meet.
In this place where the waters rise above our feet,
invisible offerings headed skyward to behave as cloud.
This place where the water flows below our feet through its proper channel
as blood not bleeding.
Here we can hover a while between the waters
above the waters below.
Please come walk with me.
It is a short time remaining
between the suffering that has been
and the suffering that is to come.
It is a short time I can claim for our visit.
When you come walk with me please
I can offer you a splendor of vessels,
composing tiny spaces for both of our dreaming
of which the medium is the water
which graces your land, Missouri – Mni Sose –
Lakota, Dakota, Nakota –
and the river I neighbor which is so deep and quiet
Hudson – Muhheakantuc.
It might rain.
Native, not native.
There are those among us both
who are crying. It has been a long time
since we have known peace – wolakota
since we have known justice –
owothanla – integrity –
together in this place where our two rivers meet
we trace with our feet a path across.
Crazy Horse said to grandmother when she passed over and then
returned from death to bear this message:
Tell your people to stop the Black Snake. Tell them they cannot back down.*
Please, let me walk with you.
I place thousands of vessels before our feet
to mark this path across. A spine long of ancestors both
repentant, unrepentant. Yielding, unyielding.
I see now we are each unbroken, though always close to having been,
to breaking. Inside the spaces
Is a dream for my people:
We cannot back down.
Water we drink is water we cry.
We need cry clean tears now
both for the damage
and its repairing.
This message among others.
Please come walk with me that we might hear
others yet unheard.
* As told by Uma Wilkinson, a Lakota from the Cheyenne River Reservation, to Deborah Scoblionkov at the Oceti Sakowin Prayer Camp in Standing Rock, ND, October, 2016, as reported in the Huffington Post.
Post-script, April 2018:
While forging a deeper understanding of the history and dynamics wrapped up in environmental degradation and environmental racism, I reckon with the legacy of living in a colonial-settler society, which centers the experience and needs (whether practical, physical, spiritual, or emotional) of the colonist and/or their descendants. When I wrote Plainsong Kico, I was struggling with the fact that due to life circumstances, I could not answer the open call - the invitation made by the Standing Rock Sioux - to travel to their land to stand in solidarity with their community against the completion of DAPL (Dakota Access Pipeline). I imagined what I could do in my own community, while recalling also the pervasive but marginalized history and presence of native people in my home area of the mid-Hudson Valley. In retrospect, I feel that "Come walk with me," though a heartfelt invitation, also amounts to a burdensome refrain on both real and metaphorical levels, even if I imagined such earthly practicalities as covering travel expenses. It is an ongoing process to authentically "decolonize" one's worldview. Hopefully this process will be reflected incrementally over time through the creative/ learning process I'm undergoing while making this work, engaging across diverse communities, and studying/ reflecting on phenomena and manifestations of white supremacy/ racism, settler-colonialism, indigeneity, decolonization. I did not feel I should delete this poem out of a sense of shame. So, I've left it here as a record of the early stage of this process.