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Poetry: Sundance

Sun Dance

“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.

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