“an outlawed ceremony of the Indigenous American tribes which included fasting, meditation, and self-mutilation as an act of prayer, spiritual renewal, and thanksgiving”
When she went into labor
with my brother, alien
and restless inside her, a cassette tape
played: home-made, her voice speaking softer
than my brother’s first breath. She insisted
it would be alright, she’d be home soon.
The year that our family became four,
the Lost River was wide, feeding
the two thousand acres my parents had settled
us on. The fishermen, the stark white
egret and the blue heron, crept on light toes
through our flooded fields. We planted willow
branches along the bank.
One weekend, when we were still very young,
my brother and I built opposing kingdoms
out of the hay bales in the barn. Thin muscles
stretched beneath our sun-browned skin, we slaughtered
each other’s armies with stick swords. We fell
asleep under the heat of the dying Fall sun
on triumphant thrones, defending
rivalries, and scratchy castles.
Ink beneath my father’s skin: five rectangular men,
dressed in five colors reach their fingers towards the sky,
skin ripped from hanging at the chest,
the sun dance. Redemption says,
one must bleed first in order to heal. My father is the one
who sat us down and told us that we would be leaving
Our ranch and home. The sun had dried the river, our willows
dead in the dust. When he told us, he cried.
We all did.
In the city, asphalt stood like dank stagnant
water before us. Jobs were easier to find, but the fishermen
and the willow trees had gone extinct. We planted
our roots into the rock: loving fierce enough to hurt, my warrior
mother, untamable brother, compassionate father, to hurt and to do
what they must anyway.