*Makwa at the Crossroads
There was medicine just lying around,
floating on the air, waiting to be caught
by the first breath of a newborn babe,
a clawed throat fighting against
such strength. A confusion of blood flow,
two opposing forces intermixed
to form a splendid whole.
A knife in the middle of the road
used for carving, for skinning, for
sketching a spirit name in the sand.
A leathery hand, palm up, demanding
the treasure stored up for
future days. A young cub
fears the sharpness and the blood.
Eye level gore from a torn knee,
a bicycle accident. A torturous
surgery, a scalpel that never giveth,
but only taketh, limbs and dignity away.
The body clings to its worst memories.
The shuddering when it rains, the twitch
of sudden sounds that affect the nerves
like fire. The ice of a cruel word.
The shame of experiencing desire.
The guilt of a good taste. The pure
tang of poison. The distrust of a smile.
The sound of certain names scrubbed away,
returning after a forgotten while.
The convincing of oneself
that the bridge has been crossed,
the hurt has been buried,
that the new form has shaken dead leaves,
can now dance and sway
in a fresh, safe breeze.
The bear at the crossroads holds
your weapons in his paws, threatens
to crush them when you need them
the most. Up above, your favorite
ghosts float, taunting to be caught,
but the little one was taught
never to fight for a healing.
Never to fly after something
that was already falling.
Never to dive when the waters
sing that you are unwanted.
In the deep woods, the owl is calling,
painting silver in your hair, preening
wisdom, reminding you that the beast
keeps power too. Bristly fur
borrowed to keep the warm in,
a warning roar bellowed
into the night air. A beacon
for a homecoming. A reflection
in a chestnut eye. A sad star
blinking tears goodbye.
Step aside for his passing.
Let him go with shredded
dresses in his teeth and don’t
look back even when you feel
his gaze stab you. He’s left
prints behind. Wear them
like battle scars. Wield them
against the sickness
residing in the mind.
Fill your pockets
with sweet herbs, seek out
your kind and sing to them
the sacred words:
You are beyond the fear now,
You are free and unconfined.
* Ojibwemowin word for ‘bear’