Category Archives: Free verse

Is the Owl Calling my Name?

[thoughts from ~burning woman~ by Sha’Tara]

Moon and stars vie for splendor
in a night sky of long ago.
It was the open prairies then,
icy snow glistening for miles around
echoing the cold crackles of ice sheets
sinking under relentless cold.

Out by the frozen pond
a skeletal cottonwood stands,
stark against the wan moonlight,
the great horned owl on a top branch
repeating his “Who? Who-who? Who!
keeping the answer to himself.

Smoke lazily rises, then settles
losing heat, mantling a straw stack
where the cattle have burrowed
to find their proximate warmth
knowing the late morning sun
will have none to give.

Far away, on the coulee trestle
the coal-fired NAR train rumbles
then lets out its eerie call:
a dinosaur knowing its time
is past and its death near,
a couple of coyotes join in,
“Yap, yap-yap-yap, Aoooo!”

These memories of mine,
what stirs them tonight?
What does my mind know
that it feels so restless?
Is the owl calling my name
beyond the woods, the river
this night? “Who, who-who?”

Is the answer: it is I?
And if it is, is the call
A welcome one? A reprieve?
All those days I have wondered,
Are they coming to their end
As things of earth must?
Do I long for such an end?

 

(NAR: Northern Alberta Railway)
(There is a belief among the central coast people of British Columbia who call themselves the ‘Kwakwaka’wakw nation, that there is a time when you can hear the owl call your name. When that happens, you are about to die. Margaret Craven wrote a fiction novel, “I Heard the Owl Call my Name” on this belief in the 1960’s – Wikepedia link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Heard_the_Owl_Call_My_Name)

 

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I Am your Instrument, Play on!

[thoughts from   ~burning woman~   by Sha’Tara]

Deep in the cold, silent snow-dropping night
when reason gives way to a dreamy wonder;
when it has no reason to be, to exist,
I hear your angelic music. I don’t know
where it comes from. I don’t need to know.
I just need to listen and to feel the feelings it stirs,
feelings I have never felt and how strange is that?

If I listen with my heart, surely it will tell me
what the music is all about. Will it not?
What it has to say?  If indeed it is for me;
played for me?  Such a selfish, unworthy thought:
for me?  Why?  Since when is such ethereal music
played for fools awake in the middle of the night?
Fools who will not let themselves slip into sleep
for fear of dreams and portents of doom?

Yet your music plays on, sadly, wistfully seductive
and I have to listen with my heart; to feel, to feel
what the music interprets; what it is saying
to the night; into the night.  Into my mind and brain.
I want to kneel down and pray though we both know
I never pray.  I find no solace or gain in it.
Perhaps there is a good reason, perhaps it’s but pride:
I don’t even know. Not while your music is playing.

I want to stand and dance a wild dance, someplace,
where a full moon shines upon a glistening sandy shore
and I can hear small waves wash and die upon that shore
and smell their sea-grown treasures as they’re spilled
upon the sands, a free-will offering to the morning sun.
But I don’t dance either.  I just don’t. Too flaunty
I told myself long ago.  Call it reverse pride, or:
there was a lot of religion back there, self-denial.

But I listen to your music. There’s mystery in it.
Like me, and I am your instrument, aren’t I?  You,
you play me so well, and who else makes me smile
like this, foolishly? You are an accomplished harpist!
You give me such tantalizing vibrations, I could
collapse at your feet now, and die so happily… If
I wasn’t your instrument; if I did not belong to you.
If I were free.  But you know I don’t want to be free,
not from you, not from this ecstasy you give me.

 

A Single Rosebud

[a poem from   ~burning woman~   by Sha’Tara]
Do you remember, it was so long ago,
before the time of earth’s labour
and the sounds of chaos made unbearable?
We stood alone, you and I, on the shore
of a black sea scape.  The wind blowing,
ruffling our hair in each other’s faces
and waves crashed upon the wet shale.

There was no moon; there were no stars,
it was our world nevertheless and love,
how we loved it just as it was.  Did it love us back?
We assumed so.  It took care of us,
just the two of us, do you remember well
before there was anyone else to care for?

Do you remember the cries and moans
of all those as yet unborn, inexperienced.
Were they eager to enter; or frightened?
It was our own love that calmed them,
and gave them substance.  We made light
so they could see their way from shore to land.
You watched, I held them and nurtured them.

So you do remember, so long ago, after
when we believed we had done all that was needed?
We stood again alone on the shore, waiting.
Waiting to go home, to be taken aloft to our stars,
certain the ship would arrive in time. Instead
a single rosebud fell down between us.

There was a single thorn attached to its stem:
it pricked both our chests, our blood mixed
and we understood the meaning of pain.
We knew then no ship would ever approach
this frightening world of light and darkness.
We knew then we no longer had each other.

Abandoned and lost, you repeated in anger,
abandoned and lost, I replied in my sorrow.
We walked away from each other then,
unbearable to one-another, unspeaking ’til now
old we are, and grey, together again, but not
to be taken home, only to touch once more and die.

You can’t stop them from seeing (your broken life)

(Lyrics from the song, Hallelujah, by Leonard Cohen)

  [poem from   ~burning woman~   by Sha’Tara]

City streets can be colder than stone
when you’re vulnerable and all alone
nor ever paved with the rich man’s gold
in threadbare clothes, wet and cold.

She comes to a familiar doorway
in the night when she’s lost her way
remembers the days of her short life
how desperately she’d run from strife
finding a hallway, a basement stair
then running again from every nightmare.

The deskman knows.  She tosses her hood
and puts her hand on the worn wood.
Her words, like a voice from the tomb:
“Please, I need a cheap room.”

He smiles at her – or is it a leer?
He replies, she can smell the stale beer —
“Forty dollars for a night at the inn –
or free, and I’ll tuck you in.”
His hand slips over her cold wrist:
for the mill she will ever be grist.

Through the window, two sheets, a case:
she grabs but he says, “No need for haste.”
Here’s the key – it’s three – o – four –
and don’t forget: don’t lock the door.”

He watches her walk to the rickety stairs,
shoulders slumped, broken by despair
and as she steps on the very first rung
comes a line from a song she’d once sung:

“Baby I’ve been here before
I’ve seen this room and I’ve walked the floor
used to live alone before I knew ya
But I’ve seen your flag on the marble arch
Our love is not a victory march
It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah”

The Years of Purple Mountains

[a poem by   ~burning woman~]

 How well I remember
The years of purple mountains
Rising above morning mists
In a distant west;
Of bright blue skies
Dotted with white clouds
Shadowing green hills
And higher still
Dark lines of evergreens
Demarcation between grass
And stark grey rocky faces,
Postcard of nature’s mantle.

I remember placid cows
Peacefully grazing
Rolling fields of rich clover;
Colourful barns and tall silos
Enclosed in white fences
And colts galloping freely
While a mighty river
Flowed majestically
To the grey ocean.

How well I remember
Those years of growing up,
Dreaming of such a land
As images passed by
On the breakfast table
Day after day after day:
Pretty labels, pretty ads
On cans of milk;
On cereal boxes
That fed childhood dreams.

Years later I did see
The purple mountains in morning mists,
The placid cows and gamboling colts.
I saw that river flowing to the grey ocean,
Made my home by it’s shores
And learned to paddle its currents.
I smelled the spring flowers;
Tasted the briny air while watching
Grey waves slither and slide
Over gravelly and sandy shores

And I fell in love.  Long ago.

Now many more years have passed:
The mountains are scarred,
Dry and dead, snows melted off;
Streams of mud and slash
Fill a poisoned river with mud;
Gated communities and high-rises
Replace the grass, feedlots
Mud and steel replace white fences
And flowers no longer grow
Along the roadsides.

One generation, armed with science
Technology and moved by greed:
All it took to kill it all. 
Has this horror made it stop?
No. Like the forever war,
The killing continues apace.

Death, the only possible legacy
of a generation of the entitled.

Paraphrase:  Esau came back from his fields hungry.  His brother Jacob had a pot of beans cooking on the fire and the smell stirred up his hunger even more.  Give me some of your beans, Jacob, I’m dying of hunger.  Jacob replied, I’ll feed you if you trade me your elder’s birthright for my beans.  Esau reasoned thus, What good is a birthright when I’m dying of hunger?  He made the trade, sold his birthright for a “mess of pottage.” There be a lesson never learned in that biblical tale.    

Innocence finds her Freedom

[a poem, by Sha’Tara]

Innocence, what is that,
that anyone should care?
What does it produce
but chatter and silliness?
Innocence, how wasteful
of a life in need of direction.
We are here, we are here,
bring the child to our doors,
we’ll take her from here.
We’ll mold her character 

and teach her the Way.

Innocence flew off
frightened by the noise,
the angry words, the tears,
the blows that fell upon
that soft helpless flesh.
Farther and farther it circled,
rising up to the windows:
finding a broken pane
it slipped out and flew away.

On the cement walk
three floors below
the old school yard
a small body lies
battered, bloody, dead.
Innocence has broken out,
free at last, and happy
once again laughing
among the blue and the white
where the free winds blow.

What price freedom?
Don’t ask why: you know
there was no better way.

 

Suddenly

[from   ~burning woman~  by Sha’Tara]

Suddenly,
It was sadness,
A sadness so deep
I peered down it’s well:
There was no bottom there.

I stopped to think,
To scratch my head;
To wonder at this feeling
And asked, what is this I feel?

‘Tis but the world
resting its tired head
upon your firm shoulders
For a few moments of respite.

Why mine?
I thought to ask,
Looking for a reason
A particular worthy reason.

Why not?
A tired world
Cannot be particular:
You were there, convenient,
Simply available – repeat: why not?

That’s it?
I was just  there?
No more to it than that?
No meaning other than that?

There is none,
Why should there be?
But if you want more to it
No one stops you from walking,
Carrying the load, making it your own.