This Thing Called Courage

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Today's Poem


























From An Arapaho Ghost Dance Song (anonymous)




I


How bright the moonlight


how bright the moonlight


as I ride in with my load of buffalo meat.




II


My father did not recognize me.


Next time he saw me he said,


You are the child of a crow.




III


I am looking at my father


I am looking at him


he is beginning to turn into a bird


turning into a bird




IV


They say the spirit army is approaching,


the spirit army is approaching,


the whole world is moving onward,


the whole world is moving onward.


See, everybody is standing, watching.


Everybody is standing, watching.




V


The whole world is coming,


a nation is coming,


a nation is coming.


The Eagle has brought the message to the people.


The father says so,


the father says so.


Over the whole earth they are coming.


The buffalo are coming,


the buffalo are coming.


The Crow has brought the message to the people,


the father says so,


the father says so.




VI


My children, my children,


it is I who wear the morning star on my brow,


it is I who wear the morning star on my brow.


I show it to my children,


I show it to my children.






from Native Americans Songs and Poems: An Anthology (Dover Thrift Editions) Edited by Brian Swann





Commentary by Ivan Granger



Toward the end of the U.S. genocidal wars against the Native Americans in the 1800s, and the accompanying devastation of the buffalo herds that the Indian nations of the plains depended on, a visionary movement arose. At its center was the Ghost Dance, in which the spirits (or "ghosts") of the lost people and buffalo were called forth. This spiritual movement was many things in the midst of the Native American holocaust, but at its core the Ghost Dance movement was a multi-tribal metaphysical effort to return the world to balance and restore what was lost. That is why we have visionary affirmations, like "a nation is coming, a nation is coming" and "the buffalo are coming, the buffalo are coming." Reading these sacred words of summoning, it might be worth taking a few moments to contemplate not only what Native Americans lost, but also what has been lost in the world as a whole as the ever hungry Western culture further dominates the planetary mindset. How do we relate to the natural world? How do we relate to the Sacred? How do we relate within our communities? With other communities and peoples? Which activities occupy us and why? But, in order to see the full picture, also ask, What are the good things in globalized Western culture? Where does hope sprout and spirit bud? That's there too. Most importantly, how do we draw on our connection to that which is living and sacred in order to establish (and protect) harmonious ways? What makes the world worth living in?




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