Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "Dancing Down the Sky"

This poem was written outside the fishbowl sessions.  It was inspired by a comment from siliconshaman under the poem "Winged Destiny" by kestrels_nest.  It has been sponsored by Shirley Barrette.  You can find the other poems in the Fledgling Grace series via the Serial Poetry page.

Browse the birds: American crow, broad-billed hummingbird, chickadee, condor, great northern loon, and red-winged blackbird. Browse the tribes: Cherokee and their birds, Chitimacha, Crow, Hopi, and Ojibwe.  Read about the Eagle Dance with picture and hummingbird mythology.

Dancing Down the Sky

The powwows had become
more colorful than ever,
now that people bore
the wings and tails of birds.

Nobody was surprised when
the Crow opened their black wings,
kin to the American crow.
The Ojibwe spread out
black-and-white bars and flecks
of the great northern loon.

The Hopi showed up with
the green wings and steel-blue tail
of the broad-billed hummingbird.
That was eye-catching.
They couldn't fly,
but they could make
an exciting thrum with their wings.

There were some, of course,
who fledged with wings
brought by their mixed blood --
the glaucous gull of the Vikings
or the pale British pigeon.
The Irish ravens blended in
innocuously with the crows.

Then the white relatives
began to arrive,
fair-skinned blondes
with the gray wings and tail
of the tsïkïlilï' or chickadee
from the Cherokee tribe,
handsome auburn-haired men
with freckled skin and
the tricolored plumage of
red-winged blackbirds
from the Chitimacha.

"I told you," they said,
"that I had Indian ancestors,"
and finally people believed them.

Some wings came
seemingly at random.
There was one man
with huge wings so black
that they shone metallic blue
when the sun struck them just so,
broad and strong like those of a condor
and yet not quite like any condor living today.

"Extinct species,"
the scientists said, but
the tribes whispered.

Then there were the people
who fledged with the wings of eagles --
golden eagles and bald eagles mostly --
men who had done the Sun Dance,
warriors distinguished in battle,
women who were many times mothers,
or storytellers, or great beadworkers,
dancers of all genders and any tribe.

There was a man who had
done the Eagle Dance for years,
who had a shirt sewn with real eagle feathers.
When his bald eagle wings came,
he hung the shirt on the wall
and danced naked to the waist,
wearing only his own feathers and his skin.

As he danced,
wheeling and turning,
dipping his shoulders until
his banked wingtip touched the dust,
it seemed that the world whirled with him

and his moccasins scarcely touched the ground.

There was a Head Lady Dancer,
much younger, who had done both
the Women's Traditional and
the Fancy Shawl Dance.
She set aside her eagle-feather fan and
covered her face with her own golden wing when she bowed.

Around the Drum,
the uncles sat with
their hands on the sticks
and their wings touching on all sides.

There were more people coming
to the powwows than had come in a long time,
more and more at every event.
Something was gathering momentum
and everyone could feel it.

There were children flapping their tiny wings
and crowing with native tongues,
suddenly fascinated by the words
that only the old men and women remembered.

The storytellers were telling
the stories of birds,
all the old stories,

and the dancers
in their holy feathers
were dancing down the sky.

Tags: cyberfunded creativity, ethnic studies, fantasy, fishbowl, poem, poetry, reading, writing

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