Gift of the Healing Darkness

Published in Longneck, 1995 & The Literary Review, 1996.


wachekia (praying)

In the summer buffalo pasture, deep[break]black hulks rest in shadow, sacred herd;[break]we drift past them out onto the land, no fear[break]now of rattlers, checking tobacco ties[break]on each fence post: all is well. We breathe night[break]mint in moonlight, touch hands, silence for miles.[break]A hoop of peace surrounds us as we[break]___________walk into the healing darkness.

inipi (being reborn)

Enclosed in sheets, we crawl through the low door, [break]sit on sage around the center firepit [break]filled with glowing rocks, hissing and steaming,[break]”born and ancient ones,” tunka oyate; [break]rock faces smile wisdom, spit out truth. Songs call[break]ancestral Spirits in, glowing blue-green; [break]cold water and hot steam renew our hearts[break]in Grandma Earth’s round womb. Praying, we[break]___________ breathe into the healing darkness.[break]

lowanpi (singing healing)

In night meeting as they nail shut the door,[break]cover the windows with blankets, we tuck [break]our feet in, sit still, sage over one ear. [break]With kerosene lamp blown out, the drumbeat [break]begins, slow and deep, heartbeat of Grandma [break]Earth; we become one ear, one heartbeat, one [break]mind to sing for all those in pain, sickness, [break]grief, despair. Wrapped in ancient songs, we[break]___________sink into the healing darkness.

hanblechia (crying for vision)

Embraced by earth in a deep vision pit,[break]fasting four days and nights, surrounded by[break]tobacco ties, altar and silence, we [break]lean against soft warm dirt for strength, knowing[break]only earth the final blanket; alone,[break]we cry holding the sacred pipe wrapped in [break]sage. “Wakan Tanka, bring health, happiness[break]and good future to the People,” we[break]___________pray into the healing darkness.

wanagiyapi (going to spirit land)

In Badlands cliffs above Redstone Basin, [break]we find old bent willows, wooden pail, rock[break]pile, cloth scraps, feathers, ancient praying place; [break]far below, fossil turtles, Clovis points, [break]bison ribs. Thousands of hooves once trod this [break]trail deep in the prairie. At night spirit [break]bison still stampede over shuddering hills;[break]as we follow that dark echo, we[break]___________ walk into the healing darkness.

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