Native American sweat lodge,
Tennessee mountain, Cherokee haunted lands.
loud knee to knee singing
the lost prayer language of everyone.
bleed wisdom in the form of steam
under the stress of fire and water.
We hold on to sage, listen and sing at once.
It is the prayer meeting of a lifetime.
The kind that sears
the soul to heaven.
In this prayer, there must be utter darkness
not even the sight of the hand two inches from the face.
Upon reflection, it was a darkness for which I was not prepared
That darkness of womb, of outer space, of inner space….
And so, soon enough, I said the holy words,
“All My Relations”
and I meant it.
They graciously, lovingly raised the flap,
speaking their encouragement to me,
and climbing out of that dome
like a baby fawn from a womb
I entered the arc of the world.
Zipping up my Born boots,
A long inhale and exhale,
covered in sweat,
stumbling off to search for my character
This lifelong, tiring journey.
Inside the safety of the house
by the hearth fire,
while the others were still praying,
I stared long at a painting of an Indian woman
with several crows emerging from beneath her
in the snow.
A murder of crows.
I sensed that these same wings were forming beneath my skin too
Black, iridescent, oily and ancient.
I recalled, at that moment,
back in the sweat lodge
It wasn’t that I couldn’t breath
it was that I could breathe too much.
“Perhaps we might choke if we gained our freedom all at once,”
I said to the woman in the painting.
Like a newborn baby,
emerging from that Wolf Moon birth,
a fragile fawn,
a sturdy oak tree,
a mossy stone,
(the river beneath the river).
Later on in the year,
on top of a foggy mountain nearby,
a fog that covered the road ahead,
I heard an old man say,
(a wise old man whose ancient, black wings had turned to silver)
“All along I thought birth and death were different,
but now I know they are one in the same.”