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We Follow Tribal Songs Even When the World is Silent • When the Tide Finally Takes Her Home • Gravedigger’s Sons and Stories of Pallbearing Crows

Tribal Songs

We Follow Tribal Songs Even When the World is Silent

for Makenna, 2018

explosions of memory
the hardscrabble of West Texas
really Apache land, passage
for conquest, heavy Christian
soldiers, priest, the pueblo tribes
cut to the bone

you are that Chihuahua moth
changes patterns with seasons
sometimes splotchy like mesquite bark
slices of green like ponderosa
the chameleon of Chihuahua

food for cactus wren
the whippet tongue
of chuckwalla
going from night
to dawn

I remember the thunderbird
red blood of tribes
on the mountain where your
bed stayed
the shadows of leafy trees
where the swing set stayed
you on the old house roof
watching bats come out
from the Thunderbird

fluttering fur balls
zigzag circles
bats and doves, crows, starlings
I’d tell you things about creatures
like the world of spices I
put to your nose
just two days old
bazaar of turmeric
oregano, cumin

you had other ideas
your father sore looser
when child rebuffed
vegetarian delights
father so tied to
culture, child caught in
tsunami of politics
one angry youngish man
holding child, weeping
inside for cleaved earth
bleached reefs
gagging dolphins

you are more than
sum parts of DNA
more than the total
lineage surrounding you
it is true your path
is a vision you have
father circling like
buzzard no more
a child girl woman
never alone yet
the world is
yours, and it is bigger
separated from parental

like that Chihuahua moth
you seek cover, find
dry air for escape
moving from shape
to pattern, holding
back Mexican free-tail
looping, chattering
air silently
as you not only
escape the jaws
of nature
but find a new
light meant for your
passage from point
to point, life, alone
but with galaxies holding
you, families under
your skin, old father
reminiscing about bats
your song is your memory

When the Tide Finally Takes Her Home

Poem in Judy and Paul’s Poetry/Writing Class

She lives on an orchid, the sound of family like waves, Maui. But she has her baggage. She sees them as veterans and she sees herself as burden.

Wife this late in the glory of sunset, her husband stilled by the sound of war: Trauma, addiction, fear.

She floats, finds air and light and wind as companions. She fights to go home, bringing her husband. A calm place. Hawaii maybe, in her last light shining on earth.

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She knows kindness, love. She hopes for a passage, passing from homeless shelter to her own place. Hearth and home. Family, children. Babies. The graying years.

There is a magic in how she cups words, descriptions between Hawaiian and Anglo, Island and mainland, tropical and dense Pacific rainforest.

The Pacific calls her, and the sea separates her from the DNA of her lineage. Maybe, she gathers stones, or makes cairns out of shells. Maybe her husband heals only with the music of trade winds lashing coconut palms.

Yet she still dances between guilt and pleasure, burden and gift, love and fear, sadness and life!

Gravedigger’s Sons and Stories of Pallbearing Crows

For James Doherty, a man, a thinker, here in the now, May 4, 2018

They look for shadows
Crows, ravens, black birds
Men hiding from truncheons
The cold light of cops
Moving hobos along

He is gravedigger’s son
Irish bravado
Words like homilies to mother
Earth, yet he doesn’t hide
His animus for the authorities

How many men look for new sunrises
Five decades
Many call it wandering
Walkabout style, he discovers
Meaning in the headstones
Etchings in his memory

Gaunt memory, short-term
Haywire, but history
Like those chiseled words
Marking a life, marking
trauma, some pre-19th century angst
Unspoken, but hardscrabble
Lives nonetheless

We call James a Jimmy
In County Cork, Galway, Dublin
He spent youth with the upturned soil
Patted down last rites,
Baptismals of wives’ tears
The old many crusty, alcoholic
Still some family connection
Sons who left the hearth at age 13
Daughters under the heavy tow
Of fallen men wasting lives

Jim is that child
Watching birds drop chestnuts
Onto granite crosses
Birds smarter than the sycophants
Of his society, the money
Changers, the levelers
Those people who call him bum
Who look through him as if
He is dirty smoke

Jimmy running through fescue
Squirrels like allies
Those crows so smart
Tricksters, the entire
Circus of life in that headstone
Graveyard, all those memories
A boy creates when old
Man digs the earth to deposit
Lives, when that father
Sees in a boy
More than a boy
Almost a man
Get on with living
Son, do the work
Be the man

Jimmy in his blue-eyed
Fugue is here
Sheltered in homeless
Home, waiting for time
Elapsed memories
Maybe that Roxbury or Bostonian
Simplicity, maybe the cut
Grass bleeding and pleading
No more people, no more
Broken lives
No more shootings and knifings
No more cirrhosis
No more beatings
No more fathers
Pushing boy out
Daughters cutting themselves

The crows are the watchers
Little Jimmy is old
Recalling a magic in life
Seven decades earlier
As crystal clear as the sky
As those black eyes
Of brother and sister crow
Ancestors now, watching out
For old man Jimmy
In Stumptown, the last
Stop in his circus
A good day to be a man.


Paul Haeder