the ancestor song

a form exercise, ending in this variation on a sestina.


a hundred years have passed
yet i hear the distant beat of my father’s drums.
i hear his drums throughout the land.
his beat i feel within my heart.

the drum shall beat
so my heart shall beat.
and i shall live a hundred thousand years.

– shirley daniels


Let me sing to you tonight of your Ancestors,
of the proud Fathers before you, my Son.
Tonight, in your distress, allow Mother
to wipe the nightmares and brush the tears
from your head, and hear no more crying
from your lungs, no more fear from your heart.

Let Mother give to you the works
of your People until she is hoarse,
so you will know of the Warrior’s watered eyes,
downcast in the sorrow of their full
mistreatment, and of how their nation was stolen
with whiskey and guns forever.

Let me sing to you of my Mother, who hovers
above us now.  Much wisdom did she give, much hurt
did she heal, for she was Clan Mother of Red Earth,
a large tribe in past days.  The Creator
blessed us then with corn and honey,
and the forests were deep with peace, and silent.

Let me fill you with my story, where miles
from my home I dreamt, and from the dust
rose a painted man, tall and fierce.  A hundred
times over I knew him.  This was my missing part.
Many nights later I dreamt again, and water flowed
from my body, and you began to live.

Let me sing to you of your Father’s release
from his earth-life, of the Smallpox rising
in him, and how he spoke of you as his Treasure.
Even as his final words wandered,
he spoke of how you would become a great Chief, talked
of you in many good ways until the setting of his sun.

Let me rock you in my arms, and from
them receive peace and contentment, and think
on this – that the ghosts over us in the night
will watch for you always, will forever guide
your path, and when you are lonely in your hunt
of manhood, see the spirit of your Father, and have courage.

So hush, my little Son, end your crying.
Let your tears be stopped by the voice of your Mother,
singing to you from the heart of your Ancestors.

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