Zemphier the XI (day 2069)

Many moons ago
This wild Serengeti
We now look out upon
Was much different
Then what we see here today
Even our own herd
Was much different
I remember when I was young
I had seven houndred and forty five
Uncles and Aunts
Six houndred and thirty
Brothers, sisters, and cousins
But now
Our herd is thirty five strong
I have seen that day
With my own two eyes
Do you think these tusks of mine
Have not seen a long life?
Do my trunk hairs lie?
Many moons ago
When we would walk to our watering hole
There would be birds as far
As my still young eyes could see
Beside our great herd
There would be antelopes
Water buffalo
Wildebeests
Hippopotamuses!
Zebras and the pink flamingos!
And the rhinoceroses!
I loved watching the rhinoceroses
Slowly go back and forth
Between their mud hole
And the water
I remember I would always ask my mother
If they were also our brothers
I have always thought they look
A little bit like us elephants.

Moon at Midnight – Part XXXXXXIX (day 2043)

(part XXXXXXVIII)

For three days we hunted
And for three days we found nothing
That would serve as any kind of sustenance
We of course found plenty of squirrels
And small birds to feed us
But deer, elk, buffalo, moose…
Nothing.

I woke up on the morning of the fourth day
Feeling like I had been charged with bolt of lightening
Awake from a dream that had left me silent all morning
As we packed up and prepared to break camp
Moon Cow came over and looked at my arrows
And asked if I was alright
I said yes, I’ve never felt better
And he asked about my dream
Moon Cow always had a sense about these kind of things
I think that’s part of the medicine man in him.

“When I was young
My mother used to come into my room
In the early hours of the day
And tell me that my father had just left again
She would cry to me
And I was..
Hardly able to understand what that meant
But her crying
Would alert me, and wake me up
And I would feel like I had to protect her
I was responsible for her
An assumed set of duties
That charged me with purpose
You should have seen me
Walking down the street
With two cents in my pocket
Going to buy the daily bread and a paper for mom
I’d say hi to all the folks I knew
And they’d smile back at me
Knowing and seeing the determination in my eyes
The responsibility I had in my shoes
They knew my father
Some would even stuff a nickle
Into my well worn pockets
I’d smile and say: ‘thank you m’am’
And charge off on my way
When I’d return home
Mother would be waiting with a broom
For the paper to devour
With the hopes she would find something better
For herself and me, I guess
In my dream I remembered my determination
For a better tomorrow
The perseverance that was required of me
I feel it now
And it makes me think about the future.

part XXXXXXX

Moon at Midnight – Part XXXXXXIV (day 2038)

part XXXXXXIII

“When I was young
My father would take Moon Cow and I to Plains
Same place every year
And we would sit in same spot
Watching great Buffalo
Migrate through
Dad would tell stories
Of previous hunts
Or legends his father had told him
Explaining to us where Buffalo came from
And why it had been given to us
Now, we no longer have Buffalo
That my father spoke of
And it saddens me that Lily River
Cannot sit here
Listening to your stories
Of where Buffalo comes from
And why we respect Buffalo
I don’t hate White Man for this
Though it is their doing
How could I hate the natural way of world
Speaking to us so?
We have shared this land many generations
Hopefully many more
But our people have always listened
Listened to stars, moon
Trees, rivers, creeks,
Coyotes howling at night
Those are Gods we take
And those are Gods who speak to us
So, too, shall we let Gods lead us now
In this time of change
For change is what we always have
Season to season
Moon to moon
We listen
And change led us here
How can I worry about change
So strong I feel in us now
change like we have never experienced
Land is changed now
It is not our family at war with other families
It is all of our families coming together
To find a way to stop big change White Man brings
Do you think there will ever be a time
When land has changed so much
No more Buffalo
Whole valley of Elk we see here
So vast and so plentiful
So many there are less trees in the forest
Do you think land will have
Buffalo no more
And Gun grows as plentiful
As Elk here before us?”

part XXXXXXV

Moon at Midnight – Part XXXXXXIII (day 2037)

(part XXXXXXII)

The first night we stayed up with our fire
Sitting close to each other
Wrapped in our blankets
Willow sang me some songs
Chanting and singing in pikanii
Sometimes I would pick up on the words
Words I knew
And I would join her
And we sang to the little sliver of a moon
That came out and shared itself with us.

We were woken up by our horse
Who came over and started to lick our faces
Quite an interesting way to be woken
But it worked,
And before I knew it
Willow had some warm nettle tea
Ready for us to sip on
As we warmed our bodies
From the evening chills.

I walked over to the cold creek running close
And washed myself
Invigorating my life force at the same time
By the time I got back
Willow had had some roots she had gathered
Which she gave me and said: “Eat this,”
And some meat
We ate silently
I told her I loved her singing last night
She smiled and told me she was asking the gods
For a safe passage on our journey.

By the time I slung the blankets back onto the horse
Willow was ready to go
And we began walking West
Down the spine of the valley
And up the far side,
When we came to the peak
We looked out
And it took both of our breaths away from us.

What we saw was not the great plains Buffalo
But a massive herd of Elk
Grazing and minding their own
Very leisurely
We sat there at the peak
For quite a while
Snacking on leftover meat
From breakfast
Just watching the massive herd
It was pure delight to our eyes.

part XXXXXXIV

Moon at Midnight – Part XXXXVI (day 2020)

(part XXXXV)

During this time of the cold season
I became well acquainted with the myths and legends
Of the Blackfoot
One of my favourite
Was always of the Old Man, Or Na-pe,
He was a common figure in all of the legends
As the first human alive.

One day, he was sitting by his fire
And thinking to himself that he was lonely
He was restless and lonely
He looked around and tried to console himself
With the things that he had
He had a good stick to be poking the fire with
He had a good teepee to be living in
That needed no repair
He had more then enough furs around him
And he had a big buffalo just killed
To feed him for a good long time
He had almost everything he could want,
Why was he restless and lonely?

His only companion, A-pe’si the Coyote
Was very nice to have around
But right now
Was off scheming on his own
He was nice to have around
But always with his schemes
That just didn’t make sense to Old Man.

Old Man packed his pipe and lit it
And then paced around the fire for some time
Thinking: “It would be nice to have somebody to smoke with
Somebody to talk to
Somebody like me,”
And went back to smoking his pipe
“Why not!? I’m the Old Man
I can do anything I want!”

So, Old Man set about his own scheming
First he gathered lots of clay around
Then he started feeling his whole body over
Taking very careful note of each bone in his body
How it felt, how it was shaped
How many of them were in his body
And meticulously went to work
Forming each bone he had in his body with the clay
Once these were all done
He put them into the fire to harden
After he let them sit in the fire long enough
He carefully pulled them out
One by one.

Now Old Man sat with two piles of bones in front of him
One of the piles was all the perfect bones
That had come out of the fire as he had designed them
But the other pile was filled with all of the broken ones
That had split or bent inside of the fire
With the perfect bones
He began to tie the bones into their proper place
Mimicking his own body
He tied the bones together with Buffalo sinew
And he then smoothed them with Buffalo fat
On top of this he then padded some clay mixed with Buffalo blood
And then stretched over the entire frame
Buffalo skin taken from the inside of the Buffalo.

With his mannequin in front of him
He smiled: “Not perfect, but it’s pretty good,”
Poking a bit at some of the crooked pieces
Perhaps he could have thinned it out here
Or tied it a little better with sinew there
So he picked up the man he had made
Blew smoke into his eyes, nose, and mouth
And he came to life
The Old Man asked him if he’d like to sit by the fire
Where he puffed some more on his pipe
And then passed the pipe to the man and said:
“I will make some more,”
And went to collect some more clay
To make some more men.

All day long Old Man worked
Forming more bones from clay
Putting them into the fire
Carefully taking each bone out of the fire
And tying them together with Buffalo sinew
Patting on Buffalo fat to smooth them out
Then a layer of Buffalo blood mixed with clay
And finally stretching Buffalo skin over the entire frame
He sat every one of them down by the fire
And blew smoke into their eyes, nose, and mouths
And left a very big pile of broken bones
Beside the fire.

So now Old Man had some company
Men to hunt with, to sit and smoke his pipe with
To talk with, and they all lived
In his teepee and another teepee he had built
He enjoyed the new life so much
That he began to get lazy
And never threw the broken bones into the river
Like he had intended to do
Every time anybody came or went to the fire
They had to pass by the big pile of broken bones
And this became quite a nuisance to them
They would trip over them frequently
Causing the pile to fall over
Which then had to be picked up and placed neatly again
Each night the wind blew through them
Making the most dreadful of noises.

By this time A-pe’si the Coyote had returned
And he walked around
Inspecting everything that had been done
While he was gone doing whatever it was he was doing,
He didn’t much like the men
And stuck his nose up at them
Saying to Old Man:
“Your handiwork has a little bit to be desired,”
But Old Man knew A-pe’si and just laughed.

A-pe’si also pointed out the pile of bones
“Surely you could do something with the pile of bones here
Why don’t you make another man?”
“Alright alright, I will make more men,”
So Old Man and A-pe’si went to work
Clicking and rattling the bones
As they tried to piece them together
Then tying them all together with sinew
And using Buffalo fat to smooth them over
Adding clay mixed with Buffalo blood on top
Then stretching skin from inside of a Buffalo over it
When Old Man had started
He knew only of man to make and that’s what he was doing
But at every moment he did something
A-pe’si would come and change it a little bit
And so back and forth they went
Until it was done
And they both stepped back
Looking at what they had created
Old Man lit his pipe and thought
It wasn’t what he had created before and was skeptical
Yet Old Man still blew smoke into its eyes, nose, and mouth
And the woman came to life.

A-pe’si and Old Man worked all day
Tying together the rest of the broken bones
With sinew from the Buffalo
And covering it with Buffalo fat to smooth it out
Then molding it together with clay mixed with Buffalo blood
And finally stretching over all of the bones
Skin from the inside of a Buffalo
And after they finished each one
Old Man would blow smoke into its eyes, nose, and mouth
And each woman would come to life.

When all of the bones were tied together
And made into women
Old Man said: “When I made the men
I set them all by the fire”
But as Old Man and A-pe’si walked over to the fire
The women all began to talk amongst each other
A-pe’si smiled and was very pleased with what he had done
And Old Man shrugged his shoulders and lit his pipe
And sat down at the fire and began to smoke it.

So it is known
That even to this day
If you have a fire around
The men will all prefer to sit by the fire
And smoke their pipes
And the women will all gather together
And talk with themselves
To this day it is not known
Whether this is because of how the bones
Clicked and rattled
Pieced together from broken ones
Or because A-pe’si,
Who is a noisy animal by nature,
Had a part in their making.

part XXXXVII

Moon at Midnight – Part XXXXI (day 2015)

(part XXXX)

I know that Frank appreciated having us there
To help him chop wood
He wasn’t prepared for so much help
So we only had two splitting axes
But everybody managed to stay busy
Stacking and carrying and loading and unloading.

On the second day at their place
We could feel a great rumbling
And knew it could only be the buffalo stampeding
So we immediately made our way
Out of their valley
And in to the next
Where there was a migratory path
The buffalo would always take
We sat atop the crest of the valley
Just watching them there
Thousands, movement as far as the eye could see
What a beautiful thing to behold
Frank was happy to have sure food all winter.

We only took down two buffalo
That was all the meat that Frank needed
It wasn’t smart for us to carry on our backs
Meat from this far away to our own village
We let Tall Pine and Moon Cow pull the bow
For it was clear they mourned not being able
To have their buffalo run this year
It was beautiful to watch them ride
Frank’s stud, bareback
Into the buffalo, fearlessly.

Tall Pine got the first one
Which landed with a thud and a big pile of dust
He then hurried back to us
Jumped off and before the dust settled
Moon Cow was off with a hoot
To get the wind in his hair again
I could see him smiling even from where I sat
As he wove his way into the herd
Bow cocked and sighted:
Thud… dust.

With four of us dressing the buffalo
We had them quickly on a sled
Being pulled by the horse
And were on our way back to the house
Excited to celebrate the luck
Frank knew better then to offer us his moonshine
But he had plenty of tea
Amy made us the most delicious bread
And we had a mighty feast of it
Afterwards all of us had to undo
Our belt buckles
So we could sit comfortably around the fire
Clarinet included!
It was nice to be with such kind people
And to have helped them such.

part XXXXII

Moon at Midnight – Part XXXV (day 2009)

(part XXXIV)

Moon Cow, Long Arrow and I went hunting
We were gone for four days and three nights
We went South to try and find the buffalo
But what we found was elk and a moose
They were buffalo people but also reasonable people
So we knew that we had to take the animals that came to us.

We made camp that night and began cutting
I reflected on the beautiful Swiss blade that
Frank had given to me,
Wondering how his summer had gone
How things were in his Valley
By night time we were all covered in blood
But had everything cut that we could use
Leaving mostly just the bones
For the wild coyotes and wolves and ravens
That were always around.

We built a makeshift sleigh
That we took turns pulling in twos
It was hard work
But we were in no rush
And had feasted till our hearts content
The night before
On the fresh meat we had
Moon Cow talked about the buffalo a lot
He worried our people wouldn’t have enough food
And Long Arrow agreed, as always
Grunting in his affirmative way.

I asked if they wanted
To go see Amy & Frank
To hunt at their traditional buffalo run
They reminded me it was no use
Unless we moved back to our traditional winter home
That we had been at last year
I asked why that was a bad idea
And they made me understand they disliked the U.S. Army
And also that Mountain Chief had said
We would stay here now
And they didn’t want to go against him.

When we got back, the women were very happy
We had done so well on our hunt
Smoking began at once
This time I was able to build a smoke house by myself
As Moon Cow built the second one
I was proud when he came over to inspect it
And had nothing to say bad about it
Giving his nod of approval
As he poked at the holes
And casually patched them
With his skilled hands.

I talked to Mountain Chief about Winter
About how he felt his people were prepared
He said he believed everybody had a good hunt
As we looked around and saw all the smoke houses
Filling the camp with mouth watering smells
I asked him if he thought about the buffalo run
And he said: “Of course,” as he pointed to his inner arm
Making a motion of cutting it
Showing me it was in his blood
I could not guess the pain he felt
Not being able to lead his people
Where his people had always gone.

part XXXVI

Moon at Midnight – Part XXIII (day 1997)

(part XXII)

The land Mountain Chief had decided to camp at for the winter
Was full of buffalo and other small game
Looking for cover in the trees for the cold season
The flat land wasn’t too nice for them
We teamed up the neighboring camp of Blackfoot
Who’s chief took Mountain Chief’s sister to bed
Seeing all of the riders together
Gave me a chill up and down my spine
But it was beautiful to watch the skilled riders
Chase the buffalo down a buffalo run
Jumping to their deaths
Must have been houndreds of them
To skin and to smoke.

Moon Cow and I set to work at once building as many
Smoke houses as we could
In the fashion that I had first built with him
A few moons ago now
Some of the other people dug giant but shallow holes
Which they then put sticks beneath
Then a makeshift frame structure
That they layered buffalo onto
And on top of this
They lay the hides they had just skinned.

It was a massive undertaking and some days
I would ride up to the top of the cliff
And just look at all the people below working
Imagine how the buffalo had jumped with the stampede
Each day I would do at least three loads of newly smoked meat
Back to the camp we had
Wild Willow had set a home close by
Open air but many hides and blankets to keep us warm
Through the whole night
That we lived in while we were working
It was nice to have her warm body
To sleep next to every night
It was food for my soul.

Every night both of our people
Would get together around a large fire
And celebrate the harvest
The bounty we were all so thankful for
To keep us through the winter
Everybody was happy, laughing, dancing
I would watch Willow and Lily
Dance around with all their sisters
As the drums kept beating into the fresh night air
When she would come find me
She would be covered in a fine layer of sweat
And exhilarated by the night
I would join her at times
Trying to watch the other men
To see how they danced
So I could learn and feel like I belonged more.

When I would wake
There would still be smoke coming from the fires
But more importantly
Smoke would still be inside our smoke houses
That Moon Cow and I had stoked
Before we had gone to our beds
I would add more logs to each one
And when I returned to camp
Willow had special tea for me
With fried buffalo and eggs.

It was a lot of work
But methodical
Which I enjoyed
I definitely wasn’t as skilled as the others
At cutting and skinning
But I was good, and fairly quick
And my good knife definitely helped me
Some of the others used modified axes
That seemed to work fairly good
It was a city for those long days
Bustling with people here and there
Trading and helping
And I met many relatives
Ever curious who the white man was with Willow
It was clear that she was loved by many
And I could also see a few jealous Blackfoot
Looking at me, dressed in a mix of leather and cotton clothes
Wondering what I had that they didn’t
But Willow had told me this is just their way
That she had turned down some widowed elders
After Lily’s father had passed,
Content to help her brother and care for Lily
I wondered which ones.

part XXIV

Moon at Midnight – Part XVII (day 1991)

(part XVI)

We were sitting by the fire when Mountain Chief came back
Him and his seven men came nearly galloping in
Whooping and hollering, clearly happy to be home
We had known they were coming
From the Scouts who were on lookout
They had two buffalo with them
We were going to celebrate this evening
And the women were busy gathering wood for fire
That would be roaring for the next three days
Cooking and curing and smoking.

I helped Moon Cow as I could
We were in charge of setting up the smoke house
For all the curing that we would be doing
We latched it together from wood we found
Using our axe to form the frame
Throwing two layers of buffalo skins over the top
We layered the inside with stones
That we also placed on top to keep it extra heavy
And created 7 shelves inside, above the smoke
To put maximum meat inside to smoke.

That night I was included in their celebration
Moon Cow and Lily helped prepare me
With two big hand marks on my left rib cage
And two little hand marks on my back, upside down
Moon Cow said that I was a good omen
And that as part of his families tradition
I would be offered the little rib from the left side
And that Mountain Chief was pleased with the sign
Lily River told Moon Cow who told me
That her downward facing hand prints on my back
Was her way of showing me
That the power of her downward flowing river
Was at my back
I was left speechless as I just watched the two of them
Prepare prepare me
And then Moon Cow sent Lily back to Willow
As they helped each other prepare.

There was not just the one fire in the middle
But many surrounding fires
That each had a roasting spit on them
For the family to eat from
Mountain Chief ceremoniously cut from each buffalo
Parts that he would announce
Who and why it was given to
A ritual I had never been witness to
But understood at once the value
His people put on it.

When I was given the left little rib bone
Everybody at once erupted into cheer and dance
Acknowledging the good omen they believed I had brought
I wasn’t really sure what I was supposed to do
And when I looked to Moon Cow for advice
He just shrugged and laughed at me
I at once was caught up in the ceremony.

When I awoke
There was a fresh mist across the encampment
And some twists of smoke
Coming from well attended fires
Finally breathing their last breath
I could see from some teepees
Smoke funneling out
Moon Cow had enjoyed the night as much as I had
And was just waking up when I returned
From freshening myself in the brook
He had no eggs this morning.

part XVIII

Delicate as Love (day 1474)

Overnight, on a highway:
It’s a crystal castle,
Delicate as love
On a midnight escapade
Down a busy London street.
Thump thump
Is my heart,
My radio telling me without words,
Traffic hazard lights
On a steep incline.
I’m not bad,
I’m just dry as a desert rose,
Hot as an exposed armadillo,
Wandering like two lone buffalo,
Not much to say,
Lonely to the very hooves I stomp,
Dust and hunters hunting.