Tsi’sdu on the Desert

By Linda Boyden © 2015

I smell sage
and dust on the wind
the heat of baked tarmac
spliced with the tang
of nail polish 
I’m painting 
one toe at a time 
foot propped on the glove box
as we cruise the endless desert highway,
sagebrush rimmed by mountains,
going nowhere special 
just out driving,
when a jack rabbit bounds onto the road,
pisses you off 
you gear down and we
tool off road into the brush.

We bounce a fair distance 
the pickup snapping our bones
better than any chiropractor,
the nail polish lands on the floor;
our go-cups of wine spatter
the seat and our jeans in red.

With a final lurch, the truck stalls
and I fall against your shoulder.
Out the window a cloud of dust 
settles on us like new snow.
All we can do is laugh at ourselves 
and how we got tricked by Tsi’sdu, the rabbit.

You ask, Think the truck’ll start?
I say nothing, lay back against the seat, 
still catching my breath.
From the west the wind picks up,
carrying the tart aroma of Honey Lake.

You wipe dust from my eyebrows.
I smell the fresh scent of your skin,
the linger of soap in your shirt,
taste the wintergreen on your lips.

Later as we drive back to town
I think to tell Rabbit I owe him one.

Spirit Man
By Linda Boyden © 1999

Deep velvet night, the Seven Sisters watch
Shadows flick across my face, cloud ripples on the moon.
Under my pillow, your thunder speaks;
Hoof-beat rhythm of the drums:
Chanting our love song,
Crying our dream song,
Cursing our magic night song.
I rise–breathe your name to the moon,
“Beloved, Beloved Man!”
Through glass prison walls, I stare,
Patient pulse, eager for reply.
You rise–
Toss your massive head, white shag, ivory horns 
Sear through the vaulted black. 
Rear and tear the supple path beneath thunder hooves.

Across the ribboned trail, the moon-trail of the night,
My silent voice commands,“Come home, Beloved Man, come.
Home to me.”
The words sweep and spiral; gather strength, lure you to my side.
My prison shimmers, vibrates to your beat,
Breath quickens with delight.

I feel you first–tremors through my legs;
Hear you–warrior wails against the dark;
See you–a speck, fermenting into bloom.
I stand, unflinching target of your sights.
You lunge, ghostly arc across the sky,
Your rushing breath, inhaled, melts my snow;
Black eyes rivet, pierce through my empty shell,
Swallow, then redeem my tattered soul.

Strange harmonies in tune, our forces spent.
Jagged breath now metered and controlled, we rest.
Shattered, intersected, yet combined,
Full moon meetings of our souls.

"Spirit Man" published in “Through the Eye of the Deer An Anthology of Native American Women Writers” edited by Carolyn Dunn and Carol Comfort, aunt lute books, 1999.

Ladder of Women 
By Linda Boyden ©2014

You stand on the shoulders 
of your Grandmothers
at the top of a ladder of women
you the Seventh Generation

for a breath, a word, a sign,
the release of a bird 
any animal spirit
to show the way home
its general direction.

Nothing comes from tongues of stone
but the silent dark
            the chaos of wind
                        the static of a  fractured planet eating itself 
wanting to add you to its menu, too
when all you want is to breathe clean air
smell the top of your baby’s head 
brush your lover’s shoulder with your lips
find your way home.

You stand alone
your heart blood drains
you can’t function 
            this lost
                        this empty
with nothing, no words,
no guidance from even
the women who bore you.

So you rage

at them 
            at luck
                        at God’s vacant eyes.

Drink away the pain
inject it into your veins
let anger be your home
or at least the warm vent 
for this cold night.

Dream deep and awaken
inside your Grandmothers’ truths
see the sorrow each endured
circle after 
            circle after
                        circle, broken.
Piece together their tales
taste their tears and in the tasting
know this life, this burden they gave you 
is a gift. 

Inhale it
weave it a strand at a time
into your misery
try again.

the least likely to succeed
climb back into place 
at the top of a ladder of  women.

You listen
weary of the wind
and how much your legs tremble

You stand alone 
yes, but not alone.

Listen to the voices
of your Grandmothers:

It is enough to stand.

A version of “Ladder of Women” was published in in “Cemetery Plots, Souls Beneath the Stones” by Lind Boyden, Don Peery and S.J. Luke, 2006.

About The AuthorLinda Boyden has loved words all of her life. After teaching for a long while, her husband’s work took them to Maui, Hawai’i where she stopped teaching and started to get her stories published. Her titles are “The Blue Roses,” (Lee and Low Books, 2002), “Powwow’s Coming,” and “Giveaways an ABC of Loanwords from the Americas,” (University of New Mexico Press, 2007, 2010), and ”Boy and Poi Poi Puppy,” (Progressive Rising Phoenix Press, 2013). “RoxyReindeer” is the fourth book she has written and illustrated. Besides picture books Linda has had poems published in many journals and belongs to the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers, and Writers Forum of Redding CA. www.lindaboyden.com

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