Tierra Zona

by Gary David


Part I

Breathing Shadows Into Stone
Afternoon At Lynx Creek Ruin
A Dark Sound In Walnut Canyon
The River Rounded At Tuzigoot
Echoes Through Canyon De Chelly
The Blowhole At Wupatki
The Underworld Blanket

Part II

Serpent Mound Journeys
Up Katsina Vista Hill
A Light Mist of Hopi Numinosity
Walking Tour of Walpi
A Parrot Dance At Shungopavi
Dancing Time In Old Oraibi
Another Otherworldly Journey
The Romantic Zero
She Wore a Metal Helmet
In Their Last Few Forevers
Hymn to Red Tawa
A few of these poems have been previously printed in House Organ and W’ORCs.

You can go HOME again.

Part I  

Breathing Shadows Into Stone

On the first day of summer, slow down
below the drone of tires on asphalt
rushing into Winslow. Slow down
below contrails slicing the blue underbelly
of heaven as they roar off to Denver.
On a sandstone panel sunlight enters
a spiral pecked into blind rock
centuries ago. Go below
the fuzzy black and yellow buzz
of a bumblebee. Go way down
under the skitter of a sagebrush lizard
doing push-ups on a hot slab of afternoon.
Down below gray vulture wings surfing
spiral updrafts. Know saltbush and sand
are your sole companions. Now

your breath slows down
        and your backbone starts to hum
                 the same song the stone sings.

        Go down with the breath
                 of boulders exhaling eternity
                           once every century.

A shadow is another matter
        flowing its trickling rivulet of sighs
                 from an underground spirit.

        Fall into it, and you float
                 among spindrift stars
                           to the next life.

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Afternoon At Lynx Creek Ruin*

Atop a scrub oak knoll at the bottom
of an evergreen bowl of mountains

slow motion dreams

surround, a drowsy image:

a wall of a village builds

from granite blocks, blocks which began

to tumble over over

seven centuries ago. Stop &

smell smoke stalking

from a juniper fire. Hear

laughter of children who dropped

to dust skitter in the dust &

laughter of ancestors

in the sky’s breath. Young men go off

to hunt, while elders inside

a kiva stir live coals-- unearth

blood-born storm clouds forming

in the ashes. Up from the creek

a woman with bare breasts shining

with sweat slips on the path. Her ocher jar

of water makes a parabolic arc

from her brief epoch, near

perfect in spirit, to ours

enduring the distance forged

tools ratchet inside

our bones. This womb jar catches

& carries to the arid air

we breathe her


                                    of blue sky, smashes

to shards as the village

evaporates time-lapse

in the time we’ve left

to feel the wet edges.

*Prescott National Forest, Arizona 

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A Dark Sound In Walnut Canyon*

Despite the light
descending line of the canyon

wren’s tune, walls ground & twisted

up as juniper trunks gray

anciently. Tucked underneath tight

limestone overhangs, fingerprints

in the mortar of a spring

morning eight centuries dry

identify the stone mason

whose bones feed the dust

we breathe. The monument’s

brochure tells how
her desiccated hand sells

for 65 cents just

moments ago in the slow river

our time spans. Circling inside

a hungry shadow

of a vulture, her spirit’s harder

to extract than the meat

of a black walnut. This canyon

of Sinaguan buff’s abandoned

hoodoo island on the heart


a dark necklace

of echoes --home

upon hushed home--

in ruins. Still

her impressions fresh
as the hour she went down

to the water to drink

in the fire of those Indian

paintbrushes (her torches

toward a nether forever)


*Walnut Canyon National Monument, about 10 miles east of Flagstaff, Arizona

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The River Rounded At Tuzigoot 

Down from Mars Hill
where Pluto got plucked

from a glacial lake of star shards

between the great wars, we fall

off the Colorado Plateau.

Whispers of thirsty shades

hackberry & sycamore make

down the crooked flow

of El Río de los Reyes

usher us through a gilded dream

of home. Between the vortices’

red rock hum & these

copper-backed Black Hills

of Anglo Jerome, Sinagua ruins crown

a lost ridge of paradise.

Ram’s horn cornucopia: corn
beans & squash, pit-baked hearts

of agave cactus, acorns

or piñon nuts, stewing

lambsquarters, saltbush

or cholla buds, rice grass

& prickly pear, jackrabbits

or mule deer-- all

fed near spirits

of infants buried (with parrots!)

beneath the pueblo floor.

Why then abandon these living bones
they loved, this land

of bloodstone & blue sky?

 “Various causes have been proposed
 such as drought, water logging

 of the soil, disease, warfare,

 invasion and dissolution

 of trade networks.

 But none seem to provide

 an adequate explanation.”
Skimming the guidebook we grasp
a metal railing climbing

the tower of mortared limestones

the river rounded at Tuzigoot. On top

priests prayed for She-rain

& pollen mist to bless long ago

each field with green tongues.

What failed?  Between spirit ways

of Wolf & Badger, abalone shells

& macaw feathers adorned

stories star-drawn in circles

of underworld kivas:
the Feathered Serpent comes!
With a smoking mirror
on his chest & stiff black hair

on a jutting chin,
the Feathered Serpent comes!
With a right-sided grin
swimming hard the cold white ooze

on his squawfish face,
the Feathered Serpent comes!
With a stick of silver
to slash yucca blossom necks

off their tender stalks,
the Feathered Serpent comes!
With a sickness worming
inside his two-fisted heart

only gold will cure,
the Feathered Serpent comes
as a man! With armies of men battling
evil for good, the Feathered Serpent comes

rattling scales of blinding armor across

New Spain’s staked plains.

A luster of avarice salts

the conquistador’s wounds with stars

falling over bloody ice.

The lava sunset peaks

of Sierra Sin Agua host

spiral roads of katsina feet, flow

a river of prayer long ago

before la Entrada.

We can’t begin
to understand what

subtle resonance their red cycle

of life sung. Feathered spirits

now dance in a rainbow plaza

of spinning planets. Spruce-ringed

feet drum the earth, kicking loose

storm clouds of dust, nebulae

of dreams. We can’t begin

to understand what

underworld ending we begin

in our martial yearning

for understanding.

Close the book.

Upon this high desert
marine fossils echo

a Third World light
. Wait
another thousand years....

now begin to break

into cloud katsina songs
upon our thirsty ears.

Tuzigoot National Monument near Cottonwood, Arizona is the site where the ancient people archaeologists call the Sinagua (Spanish for “without water”) lived in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Tuzigoot is an Apache word meaning “crooked water.” In 1930 Pluto was discovered at Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff. El Río de los Reyes (“river of the kings”) is the original name of the Verde River. In the late nineteenth century the United Verde Copper Company
opened a mine which created the boom town of Jerome, Arizona. Sierra Sin Agua is the original name of the San Francisco Peaks. La Entrada refers to the Spanish incursion into this territory. According to the Hopi (the descendants of the Sinagua), the “Third World” is the preceding epoch which was destroyed by a deluge. We are now living at the end of the Fourth World.


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Echoes Through Canyon De Chelly
Manganese streaks red
sandstone canyon walls the way

arc after arc of thunderhead streamers

falls-- brushing “desert varnish”

from a lone house of snow on the rim

to fields bubbling up sunrise green

corn below.  Foreshortened riders

on Navaho horses follow serpentine

olive trees, cottonwoods & tamarisks

twisting past.  Swirling waters

in stone, lines of dunes frozen

by late Permian winds curve

our current crow-fly vision.

As a few Diné kids go
to their mother’s hogan, taboo shadows

a thousand years long cling

to the buff-colored cliff

houses of the Ancient Ones. Tower

of stone dwarfed by a stone overhang

of time still stands

abandoned, echoes through time

late morning sheep bells & voices

a thousand years deep.

Look back through the T
-shaped window within

a spalled masonry

wall. With hushed shades

of sleep their slow afternoon

intones, a few wind-hewn

stone men (the same moment

our century crusades) paint

egg white & ocher

concentric rings
or palm prints
splayed upon a light rain

-ribboned face-- the sun-polished

cheekbone of Grandmother Canyon.

Spider-wise, her spirit crawls

over the dark pueblo-- blood

colors & thunder blessing

her slickrock road.

Look again &
elders look back

another thousand years

deep.  In the mother kiva

they sing & drum together

with their Ancient Ones, the ones

living in the evening dream

of the oldest kiva-- holiest

of holies, ring within

ring.  The oldest echoes

nearest their spirits spanning

the life of Grandmother Canyon.

From the bone-clean top

of Spider Rock to her mouth webbed

with graffiti, Bud cans & butts:

the Rainbow Road echoes

a thousand years swirling past

their drum song, painting

our long road home.


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The Blowhole At Wupatki  

Where unchristened trails of phratries crossed
(Sinagua & Kayenta, Hohokam & Cohonina)

febrile tendrils of kiva fire still flow

down flute breath feather snakes’

tap route Sipapu beneath

the Colorado Plateau: grand canon

of afterlife or priorbirth, oneiric underworld

where Masau’u the Skeleton Man meets

in the flesh his alter ego (godseye to I)

upon a paho altar of salt

quests through Vishnu schist.

Who is this
Hisatsinom who wandered

away so long

ago from Wupatki

on a spiral journey

through sun & bloodstone

to follow Pahana

the Elder White Brother emerged

from the First World

below? Where
from the red corn south basaltic black
cinders with apocalyptic aa meet

Moenkopi sandstone, honeycombed by the flood

of a billion summer dog stars buzzing

moonless monsoon nights, pitch pine

upon red slab, above the northmost ball court

on the continent, catching ritual rain, these tall houses

of Pueblo Wupatki rose. In the smoking shadow

Palotsmo cast on Kana-a lava flow

ejecta, a crow wings obsidian bonito over

a Cloud Katsina Clan’s prayer dance

on clear air. Over this rainbow Painted Desert

vista, rippling wet indigo with vermilion

erosion of dire sunset firefall, fumarole

mist & cave ice glaze, glacial outwash

layered by hot ash, from Kaibab limestone

fissures to a squash blossom ball court built

by the village blowhole blessed

with corncobs & pollen, Yopontsa, sage

spirit of vitrified wind carries

a mask muffled prayer from the Sacred Peaks’

granite pyramid through this delta age dreaming

Precambrian strata cross-bedded down

the Tusayan’s cañon origin:
O sprouting god

We pray you dip

your great sprinkler

of heaven feathers

in the sky-lakes’ fire

to bring us sacred rain.

We pray you make

winter earth ready

for summer air

to bring us sacred corn.

O Muwingwa!

Hear our prayer

sprouting god!
A hoop of water, lightning kiva ladder
to chthonic thunder, a katsina wheel driving

Hopi prophecy from that first Hisatsinom here

to my mechanically Manichean Mazda.
Who is this
Anglomakarian who blundered

into Tierra Zona

to stumble on ruin rubble, sifting

red dust for a ghost of a face

singing away

eight hundred years

a familiar prayer for Nakwach, the clutch

of white palm on red?
A ring of hands evaporating, wrenches
elemental balance in a hell-bent mental break

dance down to the third Fourth World

war: a purification

ocher ghosts burn in

to the bone.

Go down> Go down> Go down> Go down>
after that Yucatan game’s (sacrifice

naught but sweat) whack & thuk, go

after Crow Clan names, dark-skinned

wind up Mishongnovi now, deep song

the blowhole shivers, rain breath

of dark earth, mother tongues deep within

feeling out: I am Mud Woman.

I am Gray Wolf. (Down there or

me kneeling the high desert, lone lobo licking

cool air elixir?) Hear our prayer

in the rearview reverse the obvious

obverse pueblo flux, spiraling back

the rainbow banded cañon where

one spirit village dream still lives

on white steam of rabbit stew. Hear our prayer

from solar slickrock pool to adobe roof

of liquid moon song’s abode. Going back

to sacred source of blue corn growing

a kernal of sky, hear our prayer--

who snake vernal water spirits down

feather breath mother routes’ low

pressure expiration, yellow lupus eyeteeth

or high on red inhalation fire up

half-life Third World eternal

combustion or bust

out here-- our prayer

                breath bubbles

                                        up rhizome

fissure fires


                    death home!


NOTES: Wupatki is the pueblo in north-central Arizona which began construction in the late 11th century and was abandoned by the mid-13th century. Sinagua, Kayenta Anasazi, Hohokam, and Cohonina are the terms archaeologists give to the native groups that came together at Wupatki and surrounding ruins, which are located near the volcanic cinder cone called Sunset Crater (in Hopi named Palotsmo) and the San Francisco Peaks, the sacred mountains where the katsinas live during half the year. Hisatsinom is the name the Hopi give to their ancient ancestors, rather than the Dineh (Navaho) word Anasazi, which means “ancient enemies.” Kana-a is the Hopi word  for cloud katsina. Yopontsa is the wind god who lives at the base of Sunset Crater. Tusayan is the Spanish term which refers to the Hopi, literally “people of the corn.” The prayer to Muwingwa, the god of germination, was transliterated from J.W. Powell’s Canyons of the Colorado. Anglomakarian is a portmanteau-- makar being the Greek word for poet. Nakwach is the secret handshake of brotherhood that Pahana, the Lost White Brother, will use when he returns to be reunited with the Hopi at the Time of the Purification. Settled c. A.D. 1200, Mishongnovi is the “guard village” on Second Mesa that watches for Pahana’s return, which contemporary Hopi elders say is imminent.

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The Underworld Blanket

“The Hopi land is the Hopi religion.
The Hopi religion is bound up

in the Hopi land.”


                Andrew Hermequaftewa

Weaving a spiral
spell, wandering centuries

the Four Corners, leaving

footprints, rock art & broken pots

among red stone cities exquisitely

hefted into being, the Hisatsinom kept

sinking     sinking     sinking

sacred roots

into the future, into the inner

chamber of nature-- kiva hearts manifesting

swastika fire & Blue Star prophecies

from darkness, mycelial dampness.

The Hisatsinom kept

moving     moving     moving

not for water nor
from spread
of war but to make

a kitsoki-- another thread

in the matrilineal design

of a spirit shawl they kept

weaving, a mother shrine on the land

they kept traveling, a liquid line

they kept making

sacred. Arriving at Oraibi*, “the place
where roots solidify,” luminous colors

of an underworld blanket (reflected

upward to their new home) blessed

this mesa. The Plumed Snake’s

scales still glitter

sacred rain.


Today we see (as if
a museum piece) that blanket: faded

photos of all the Anasazi

sites we covet, all the mute ruins

we’ve ever walked, those empty rooms

deja vu tries to fill, a bricolage

of undanced steps & bricks

still standing (four times longer

than our republic.) Still

standing against the polished agate

of our lenses’ polarized blue: bone

whistles & stone tools, eagle feathers & turquoise

jewelry, cedar spindles & abalone, dreamed tableaux

of village afternoons, turkey vulture drowsy

plaza gossip, sibilant whispers etched

like water serpent petroglyphs

on the cloud breath wind

we almost remember. Each thread
becoming a part

of the tattered pattern

the whole cloth sings

down below



                                mist: the dark home

                    they go

                                to wrap up





                    The Hisatsinom keep


*Located on Third Mesa, Oraibi (O-rye-bee) is the oldest continuously inhabited community in the Western Hemisphere, established c. 1120 AD.

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Part II  

Serpent Mound Journeys
“On the prairies they stopped again.
The Snake Clan especially wanted to leave

its footprint here, but there were no cliffs 

on which to mark the picture writing.

So the people left their signature

in the shape of a great mound of earth

resembling a snake.”

                                Book of the Hopi
“Just a mound o’ dirt
shaped like a serpent,”

the Rocky Fork Store clerk hisses

when you ask the way.

Rolling over Ohio back roads’

white porch farmhouse dogstar cornrows &

Mailpouch tobacco barns

fading, your car rusts into bluegrass

toward the Snake. Morning dripping

gray sky, you near the ring

graben, hear the crypto-

explosion echo down

coils of deep time.

Past mounds of the dead, you tread
where angels fear-- Eden

as Rev. West sermonized

right here. Grab the tail

of the great snake, yellow clay

Father Snake, feel

headward surge

of serpent lightning.


Feather Snake, purge

each chakra chochmo curve--

thunder number seven

takes off

your head, takes you

to the mouth, the egg

in the mouth

of Father Snake, the sun

swallowed whole

summer solstice eve.

Above the snake

garden in Adams County


just a mound

of love, just a mouth

to the dead

you tread, a spermatid

your love said

eyeing the aerial

photo ex post facto.

Vagina katsina (blue violet
Ruellia flowers echo) flecks

dew drops on deep green

swarded yellow back

of Father Snake, rainbow girded

manito snake, paho feathered

Tokchi’i, red talking guardian

of the East. Line migrations’ gyre

tail tip up with copperhead

to point out Polaris, poison

of stasis. His tongue strikes

west, the way the Lost White Brother

with seed sack sprouting fire


His tongue strikes fire.
Father Feather Snake

in the guardian garden rises

over dolomite bedrock, ignites

the falling night.

In your oval eye

his tongue strikes fear.

His tongue strikes fear.

His tongue strikes fear.

His tongue strikes fear

dead. You tread

with feather feet

the air. Father Snake spirals

up your chakra tree--


the last days

of spiritual hunger

before the holy host

Pahana comes &

your eye strikes fire.

NOTES: chochmo-- (Hopi) mud mound; katsina, kachina-- spirit of invisible life forces; manito, manitou-- (Algonquian) an object engendering spiritual awe or reverence, a fetish; paho-- prayer feather; Tokchi’i-- Hopi reference to the serpent effigy near Locust Grove, Ohio

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Up Katsina Vista Hill

Subdivisions bivouac hummocks
all around, but this hill’s still full:

squawbush & buckbrush, cliffrose, catclaw

acacia & manzanita, chokecherry, bear

grass & prickly pear, mistletoe in emory oak,

palo duro & spanish bayonet, piñon

& blackjack pine, fern, junipers & buff

granite boulders map lichened & mottled

light-green & ground moss

very verde-velvet.

Squirrel scurries &
croaking crow wings

buffet the air with the

foof    foof    foof

a boomerang makes.

You clamber up the jumble

geologic ages scramble.

Then you see them

eighty miles away


             volcanically coned

in the blue: snow

the katsinas’
             you know

the earth again

             is new &

you are




                       your death

                       your friend.


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A Light Mist of Hopi Numinosity

In the distance an instance
bigger than beautiful, wider

than years being human, roomier

than this view, “very something”: blue

mesa on mesa on mesa en

masse, deeper than scenery-- a'ni

himu. Land spans life

dances day-long with

masks (“friends”) into. Plazas

fill with spirits. Skies

spill Cloud People. Fields

rustle arms wet & green

as that first time

lover, the sweet mist

of Sand Altar Woman

on butterfly lips.


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Walking Tour of Walpi*

Up on First Mesa, past
black wires & water pipes

of Hano & Sichomovi, smile

masked hawkers’ katsina dolls

from hoods of cars, burnt out

cropping this coarse cob

isthmus, beyond our taciturn

tour guide’s “Non-Indians not allowed

at Niman dances,” her

sandstone basins water pools

centuries deep, gap

end to seasons’ drought, slab

upon slab, over the narrow knuckle

of rock, piki bread & piñon

smoke, blue mongrel drowsing

shadows empty plaza

afternoon, kiva viga

hauled from peaks’ high

snows, plaster flaked

long agoes flutter

nameless now, cliff wings above

stair steps down, cedar ladder

balanced, on fingertip

the highest house, the open door, the

brother voice within

a dim room in time melting

our walking:

"Welcome to Walpi!" 
And the wind that gathers the breath
of a thousand springs sweeps
clean the path
from his house to ours.

*Hopi Reservation, Arizona

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A Parrot Dance At Shungopovi*  

Into the plaza the sun’s veined hand
swirls like crystal rain in sandstone

basins color on color: cotton cloth

& painted mask, kilt & feather, breath

of muffled song. Kit fox

fur skin trails behind, scarlet

sash with turquoise pendant

in front. Spruce ruff & rainbow

parrot plumes flutter. Squash gourd rattles

sizzle through low corn chant & thunder. Urges

force bean growth forth from dry earth

to green warmth as snake-strike lightning

cleaves blue clouds down a round

horizon’s selvage stitched with darkness.

The great katsina wheel turns
upon heartbeats slow as seasons

dancing. Stately as star spirits

spinning the heavens of elders, dancers

wheel as one through the blood

vultures’ afternoon drone

of a lone cottonwood drum.

In cosmos mundane chaos muddles
this circle’s sacred middle: Tsuku

yellow clay belly clowns strut, suck

cigarettes or cans of Coke, bob balloon

blond quips. Monikers in black

laugh across each back, names like:

Dumb Boss      What Am I?      Absent
Mind      B-Yee What Do I Know?
Parody of Pahana, they poke
fat upon one whirly polly, rasp ribs

of another scrawny bird-leg, screech & deride

the great katsina wheel which

turns          turns inside          turns inside out

the ancient journey from parrot jungles
to Second Mesa’s blessing rain.

*Shungopovi is a village on the Hopi Reservation. Pahana is the Hopi word for “white man.”

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Dancing Time In Old Oraibi
(A Rainbow Chant for the Hopi)

In the oldest village yellow dust whirls past
     Chakwaina Katsina ’round the short rainbow plaza wheels
In the oldest village blue dust whirls past
     Chakwaina Katsina long hair & black mask wheels
In the oldest village red dust whirls past
     Chakwaina Katsina diamond teeth & dangling tongue wheels
In the oldest village white dust whirls past
     Chakwaina Katsina yellow eyes of half-moon wheels
In the oldest village in the oldest village
     Dancing dust whirls past past Old Oraibi

In the oldest village blue dust whirls past
     Chakwaina Katsina the black Pahana wheels
In the oldest village red dust whirls past
     Chakwaina Katsina the arrogant giant wheels
In the oldest village white dust whirls past
     Chakwaina Katsina the Moor Estevan wheels
In the oldest village yellow dust whirls past
     Who is Estevan Estevan Estevan wheels
In the oldest village in the oldest village
     Dancing dust whirls past past Old Oraibi

In the oldest village red dust whirls past
     Chakwaina Katsina sacred bow & rattle wheels
In the oldest village white dust whirls past
     Chakwaina Katsina double diamond clan kilt wheels
In the oldest village yellow dust whirls past
     Chakwaina Katsina cowrie-tinkling bandoleer wheels
In the oldest village blue dust whirls past
     Chakwaina Katsina tortoise shell foot clacker wheels
In the oldest village in the oldest village
     Dancing dust whirls past past Old Oraibi

In the oldest village ’round the short rainbow plaza
     Dancing dust slows time slows time slows time down
Except when Koshari clowns black on white show up
     In the oldest village ’round the short rainbow plaza
Dancing dust slows time slows time slows time down
     Except when Kokopelli’s stiff poker shows up
In the oldest village ’round the short rainbow plaza
     Dancing dust slows time slows time slows time down
Except when the Ogre’s butcher knife shows up

     Chakwaina Katsina wheels past past Old Oraibi
In the oldest village ’round the short rainbow plaza
     Chakwaina Katsina whirls past past white Oraibi
Dancing time slows dust down in the oldest village
     Chakwaina Katsina whirls past past yellow Oraibi
Dancing time slows dust down in the oldest village
     Chakwaina Katsina whirls past past blue Oraibi
Dancing time slows dust down in the oldest village
     Chakwaina Katsina whirls past past red Oraibi
Dancing time slows dust slows dust slows dust down
     In the oldest village Chakwaina Katsina

          ’round the short rainbow plaza
     Chakwaina Kachina in the oldest village
          In the oldest village past Old Oraibi
     Dancing dust whirls as the Mudhead drums
          Chakwaina Katsina wheels past

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Another Otherworldly Journey
(A Hopi Home Going Dance)

Sunlight on turquoise steps, tablitas
of the Hemis katsinas rise
in a line of thunderheads advancing
over a tumbled sandstone mesa.
Spruce rain echoes
the long awaited manna
of distant mountain rainbows.
Dancing from red sunup
to violet sundown, spirit voices
of the Hemis katsinas chant
low otherworldly undertones.
Subterranean chambers flood
blue fire streams fluid
as lucid dreams shimmering
leaves of speckled corn.
Gourd rattles shake dry seeds
of an earlier world reeling in time
to the kneeling Maiden katsinas.
Their round rain makers rasp
the bloody footsteps Masau’u makes
upon the cloudy inside of the skull.
Deer hooves on right knees
clacking, dark bodies
of the Hemis katsinas lean
toward the thirsty earth, footsteps
pressing their prayers
downward, downward, downward...
Through horizontal eye-slits
in cylindrical helmits, they peer
as if the dance plaza had turned
into a sheet of water
welling up from an underworld
whirlpool of foaming stars.

In deepening dusk, forming
a double line in single file,

they face westward
to bless the village brides

in white robes. In return
they are given pollen

for the journey homeward.
They are given pahos

for the journey homeward.
They are bathed with sacred pipe smoke

for the yearly journey homeward.
They are cooled with feather-water

for the yearly journey homeward.
Monsoonal cloudbursts

close this ritual cycle as spirit bodies
of the Hemis katsinas flow

out of the dance plaza
into the night shadows
          for another otherworldly journey

NOTES: tablita (or tableta)-- a brightly painted, vertical extension of the headdress; Hemis (or Jemez) katsina-- the Ripened Corn katsina, the principal masked dancer in the Niman ceremony performed in July; Masau’u-- god of the earth, death, and the Underworld; paho-- a prayer-feather offering

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The Romantic Zero
(Between a Pristine Morning & the Tonight Show)

O to be circling
back to the place one’s race once
emerged: out of the dark
red Vishnu schist a hollow reed
sipapu rooted (badger-headed)
to the First World below.
O to be circling back
to the rainbow-banded canyon
where a spirit pueblo lives
on steam of prayers & rabbit stew.
O to see through
the white noise of night’s machinery
to a day’s honey buzz
in the village hive of everlight.
O to be going back
to the source of blue corn, growing
inside a kernel of sky.
O to go circling
circling      circling      circling
slickrock pool to adobe roof
as liquid round songs’ abode.
O to be drinking
clay pipes’ smoke.
O to be blessing
spirit roads with breath
feathers, corn meal & medicine water.
O to go far beyond
a census of heartbeats
to drum so near
the oldest blood singing
deep stone.
O to go down
a ladder of sunlight
to the Western Kiva & dawn
of a katsina domain.
O to be going home
with cotton cloud mask
& eagle down
whispers at ankles & wrists.
O to remember
the Cloud People once lived
in our house, sipped water
to circle our blood
in their veins.
O to be dancing
an underworld winter away
as thunderheads over the mesa
gather summer long yellow ear
paho sticks & pollen songs.
O to see beyond
cobweb lightning
binding horizons beyond
horseless wagons on black ribbons beyond
sky trails & metal houses
drifting through dust devils
of stars blooming beyond
the four-armed gourd
of ashes in a blue Nova
on concrete blocks out back.

Yet zero to know
the deadpan host
better than our father, remember
not Spider Grandmother tales but
midnight punch lines after
we’ve all signed off-- each race
(Hopi and Pahana) lost

          to the other on the two-lane highway
          to the lowest solstice sunset.

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She Wore a Metal Helmet
(Lori Ann Piestewa, 1979-2003)

In the desert of forgotten spirits
a young Hopi woman wanders.
In the Painted Desert
near a stacked stone pueblo
bathed in piñon smoke, a babe
of the Bear Clan was born
In the cradled desert
near An Nasiriyah, a Hopi
Catholic single mom
turned Army private
took a wrong turn
in a humvee. In the desert
of apocalyptic sand storms
and whirlwind jinns,
her bubbly Army buddy
from Palestine, West
Virginia was rescued via Delta force
from an enemy Baathist
hospital bed. (It was later made
into a TV movie
of Pentagon propaganda.) Instead
"White Bear Girl" lay
under a black shawl of dust
in a mass grave shallow
as a shadow. Her blood-name
means "water
pooled on the desert
after a hard rain."

Butterfly Warrior of the People of Peace.
First American servicewoman sacrificed
in the naked frontal attack
on Iraq. First Native American woman
to expire on the ambushed battlefield
of patriarchal pillage. (Her vice
president neo-concocted in wet dreams
this nightmare.) Far from her mother village
on Middle Mesa, Arizona, she fell
into a firefight of arabesque lines
unraveling. Her elders failed to foresee
she'd sip her last breath
near the bricked ziggurat of Ur
cuneiform prayers of clay climbed
with their moon god Sin--
cold crystalline trellises
of midnight. Crossing
a spiked vista of Joshua trees
and mirages, her forebears spiraled
petroglyph ages with their sun god
Taawa. A red taproot
three thousand years deep
reaches from thirsty stars
into the desert of a nation
not three hundred years old.
A wormhole sipapuni*
in Eden's apple stretches
from Tikrit to Tuba City,
from the Little Zab
to the Little Colorado,
from the Zagros range
of Kurdistan to salt caves
of Grand Canyon.

Hopi legends say, when
Horny Toad Woman spoke
to Masau'u, god of death
who rules the earth, about the future
crisis in the desert,
she, too, wore a metal

In the desert forgotten spirits remember
a young Hopi woman
     homeward, where
                                  netherworld ancestors wait
             with eyes of mist, hair
                       of rain clouds

*In the Hopi belief system a sipapuni is a subterranean tunnel leading to the Afterlife.

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In Their Last Few Forevers

The Shuttle crew glances out the left windshield.
Dawn shadows snake purple and gold
through Grand Canyon. Down hidden chambers
of stone pueblos built while the first Crusades raged,
Hopi elders make prayer feathers. Quietly they prepare
for the coming Purification. When humans begin
to live in the sky, this Fourth World of ours
will end, they say. A heat tile falls off, lands
in the plaza where the Blue Star Katsina dances.
The Shuttle already soars above the white dishes
of the Very Large Array. Another square tile falls
in the Rio Grande. A toxic chunk of charred metal
plummets to a ranch in Crawford, Texas.
Stetsons in Dallas lift to the heavens.
The Katsina removes his mask and the dance
In our last few forevers, counting their blessings
among the stars of Orion, seven souls turn
into fireballs. Our dreams trail in their vapors
and fade on the pale eggshell of morning.

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Hymn to Red Tawa


No burning ball of gas.
No, the sun is a mask

whose eagle feathers radiate
a white circle of compassion.

The sun is a katsina mask
who speaks heliotropically

to you atop a butte.
Standing with the sun rising

red across the Painted Desert
you make a temporal ripple

which makes a woman grinding corn
look up from her stone

700 years ago, thinking
she heard a dance rattle.

Blue corn, red sun.
We make a temporal ripple

we are that close. A spiral
petroglyph radiates from the heart

of the galaxy. We are that close.
The heart of the Christos, Buddha

Amitaba, the Creator Tawa speaks
through a mask of compassion

no burning ball of gas
shall ever wear. A white circle

of eagle feathers speaks
to you atop a butte.

To her grinding corn
he speaks heliotropically.

To you standing alone
with the sun rising red

from the burning heart
of the Painted Desert he speaks:

No death shall dance your life.
No death shall dance your life.

In either time
look up from your stone.

Look up from your poem.
We are red sun, blue corn, thinking

we heard a dance rattle
the katsina of compassion

shakes & shakes.
The katsina of the temporal ripple

grinds & grinds. Still
no death shall dance your life.

No death shall dance your life
in either time.

No burning ball of gas
shall know: The sun is a mask

the Creator of compassion
speaks through. Heliotropically

we are all that close. At the heart
of a spiral petroglyph

the galaxy speaks.
Through a white circle

of rising feathers
the sun katsina speaks:

No death shall dance your life.
No death shall dance your life.

No death shall dance your life.

No death shall dance your life.

Copyright © 2000-2006 by Gary David

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