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Options and Alternatives
~ Maureen Brucker
My brother was born in a tipi meeting.
Traditions run deep in the family.
The intertwining of pipe and peyote.
Of sun dance and the tipi.
He is of Tatanka Iotanka and Hehaka Gleska,
Of Wasicu Tasunka and Tasunka Witko,
Of Sword and a Mexican man named Sierra,
Of Beatrice Long Visitor Holy Dance and John Weasel Bear.
My brother is of the reservation born and bred,
Yet he is of the coasts as well.
Of California where he brings ceremony,
And New York where he records his music.
This is a complicated man
Of complicated choices.
Of hard living
And declining health.
This is a complicated man,
Of strong traditions,
Of powerful faith,
And a well earned peaceful heart.
Strength is something that ebbs and flows.
Medical treatments are much less than perfect.
Gone are the days of ‘Firstly do no harm’.
Sometimes, no matter what is said, harm is very great
and good is very small.
In hospital, all techniques are invasive.
When one is ill, ‘informed consent’ can be difficult.
Are we treating the flu, cancer, heart disease, kidney failure?
Or are we trying to juggle all at once?
Procedures are exhausting.
They always seem to be painful.
One endures in order to get better.
But what if the result is serious damage?
There is nothing pleasant about the first stage of grief.
Anger rips through everyone.
He is too young, this is too soon.
The tension is everywhere.
The end is truly almost a month long struggle.
The suffering is obvious.
Late night text messages speak of unspeakable choices.
Ultimately the decision to go home is made.
Home to the rez.
Home to the land.
Home to sisters and brothers.
Home to prepare.
The journey comes in the morning.
The journey ends the struggle.
The journey home’
Brings a final peace.
Dedicated to Aloysius John Weasel Bear
June 6, 1966 to November 19, 2017
'Aloysius Weasel Bear's connection to Sword is very indirect. he has brothers and sisters from a previous marriage who are directly related. also, many of the traditions of the Wild Horse Sun Dance are from Sword and American Horse. Aloysius was part of that tiospaye.'
Excerpts from THE ONLY ROAD HOME
~ Sheri Watson
POEM ONE: The Beloved Ones
The road has been this narrow
since I was a child.
Even contractors can’t touch
Tides wash in imperceptibly
through the marshlands;
an unsettled place
not fit for steel and concrete
it has a settlement all its own.
blue and grey,
it paints itself in a myriad
We could never match
the subtlety of light
playing its music
out of our hearing.
The road is narrow
in the marshlands,
but the beloved ones
have no use for a road.
POEM TWO: Conflict of Interest
The marshlands are deceptive.
There are pockets of land
between the bay and the inland
that bear no weight
beyond a rabbit.
I know of no human path
that has mapped these
harsh stepping stones,
but I have seen
the remains of the dead
on the only human road.
We don’t know
that we are at war with this world,
but they do,
finally never returning.
POEM THREE: Blind to Life
Before the summer’s harsh heat,
a spiky green carpet of tule
covers the miles
between the cattle lands
and the ocean.
Ducks and egrets build their nests
and their young hatch in numbers
to feed as quietly
and patiently as the flowing waters.
The marshland draws our eyes
to its verdant fragrance
of the land’s earthy smell
and the ocean’s salty perfume,
inviting us to understand.
POEM FOUR: Reflection
in still water
as if there were
to be held accountable to
Image Courtesy of Sheri Watson