To Wear the Bells Again
- for Evert S. Stoutenburg
Braid my hair with eagle-down,
twist the ends with beads and doeskin ties.
Tie on my Blackfoot choker,
won fair in my last race.
Slip on my medicine necklace
of buffalo, heron, hawk, more: each piece a sacred prayer.
Tie on my red-dyed deer and porcupine guard-hair roach,
its eagle feathers twirling in bone sockets with each head-bob.
Pull on my Crow armbands –
with white-quilled edging and beaded mountain designs.
Tie on my leather apron –
its center beaded with the whirling logs of our four seasons.
Slide on my Sioux cuffs –
full beaded, edged with chewed-soft deerskin fringe.
Tie on my beaded and feathered calf bands, my black fur anklets,
my eagle feather waist bustle, and a Navajo sash from my father.
Slip on my Arapaho moccasins –
beaded and quilled, and used only for dance.
Tie on my ankle bells - the right ones chosen a slight pitch higher
than those for the left - ringing a metallic chant all their own.
Last, to paint each cheeks with one stripe -- as tears of dedication,
the tears of not forgetting yet, tears of all the years, of all the loss.
Then to dance - hard footed on one beat, softer on the next.
Toe'-heel toe'-heel for one dance, toe-heel' toe-heel' for another;
our native trochee and iambic - before there were such words.
Line stomp-steps carry me on waves of energy welling up
from deep within my body, from deep within my throbbing soul.
Dancers spin and whirl around a fire that twirls sparks skyward,
adding their brief lives to that of the stars. The night passes,
sweating, heart pounding, a canto of words, rhythms, and emotion,
a sacred aching love, a searing inner knowledge few can ever know.