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Creek Running North

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February 16, 2004


The pine is tall, today, beside the rock
and plates of bark the size of women's hands
are scattered widely on the duff below.
dry needles line the shallowest of holes;
but some, a hand's depth in the diorite
hold tannic rain, and pine and black oak mold.

the rock is broad. six women could sit here
and work the acorn meal with rounded stone
the oldest rubs her wrists. four dozen years
of grinding take their toll on fragile bones.

"women's pain is quiet, but it lasts."

Her daughter listens, sorting basket reeds.
three weeks from now, her gathered pile of stems
will hold a crop of acorns in the creek,
their bitterness dissolving over days.

"The men won't hear of it. They preen and strut
the victors in the hunt, a bit of meat
to flavor the pinole, the acorn soup
a bit of hide to wear above the grass
and woven rush.
And tales increasingly embellished.
Ten years from now, the deer sports six-inch fangs,
the rabbit will shoot fire out of its ass.

"By the time the dark-eyed girl you bore this year
makes her first visit to our women's hut
that one small scrap of deer will have fed us all,
marinated in the smoke of gambling sticks."

Still, men are loved, pathetic as they are.
Why else the pain of wrists and knees and lower back
to feed those cavernous and growing bellies?

One hole, full to the rim with bitter rain
a film of black and fingernails on rock,
wet to the wrist. One grain at a time.

How many years of harvest did it take
for this metate to be ground out this deep?
How many turns of stone in woman's hand?
How many blisters, favorite grinding tools
worn small and cracked and useless on the rock?

How many afternoons, the sweat and song
each pouring in their turn from they who feed?

Each grain of dust carved out to make this hole
was swallowed with the evening's pot of mush.

This land is women. Floor to rim to rim,
this cleft pours out life. These breast-sized holes
smooth and round and pleasing to the touch
fed centuries of children.

The grinding holes are mute. They do not boast
as tourists gawk at waterfalls, at deer,
and to the few that climb upon the rock
they do not say that women work them still,
that wrists and backs hurt quietly for love.

Posted by Chris Clarke at February 16, 2004 08:50 PM TrackBack URL for this entry:

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decorative line of bighorn petroglyphs


Wow. I am in awe of this poem. I love the details, the depth, the reality and truth of it.


Posted by: Rana at February 17, 2004 12:13 PM
decorative line of bighorn petroglyphs

What Rana said.

Posted by: dale at February 17, 2004 04:37 PM
decorative line of bighorn petroglyphs