A Mile of Weeping Willows

In the beginning
is darkness
and silence:
the pre-illuminated darkness
that inherits the light
that shapes the vision
that informs the silence,
the pre-narrative silence
that inherits the words
that honor the sorrows
that are rooted
in a mile of weeping willows.

Elegant, drooping fronds
gently dip to the water
of a river
in a place called home.
A river—
still
and deep
and brown—
runs through it,
the open space of town.

Cascading willow branches—
long and slender
sad and green—
sway like the pendulum
of a grandfather clock,
rhythmic and unbroken
tick tock tick tock.

What is time
but circles of sun and moon
arching up and out and down—
the ever-changing faces in sky,
shining like lanterns
mellow in the leaves
that turn tender green
to dark green
to sage green
to blazing yellow.

Silently,
in my own way,
I sweep the withered leaves
that shiver in the breeze
and drop each day
into the crevices of rocks
that endure the rhythms
of far-reaching roots—
matted and shallow
grand and complicated.

The whole place is so quiet
like my grandmother was quiet.
I huddle in the clearing
of the weeping willow
under her wide canopy—
round and beautiful
graceful and dreamy.

Warm, tender whispers
help me put one foot
in front of the other,
keep a calm sense of hope
of being able to find
what works,
what helps.

The curtain of branches,
wavering and wafting,
transforms light and shadow
of this near moonless night
into visions.
Coyote makes a teasing whistle
on the wind.
Crow drops a red bauble at my feet—
a talisman of memory.

I hear the muffled thud
of a drum—
Thunder.

It soothes to taste the rain.


Composed in February 2020——during a month of anniversaries of the deaths of my beloved friends Bobby, Punkin, Jamie, Pasu, and Miya. 

Revisited in February 2021 after another member of my circle of Oglala Lakota Sioux friends died with COVID-19 in South Dakota. Little Hawk was a good woman and an excellent science teacher. She also helped care for Miya during the last weeks of her life in February 2019.