As if in the ransack of time a little mouse could foresee such a circumstance, little unbeknownst to him and his furry paws scuttling to and fro about the forest floor – roots for here and roots for there, but left in a random mess that danced like bliss – as the owl hooted loud the shakey graves below the folly could tell ten thousand stories of arching madness and screaming terror; look out look out look out my friend, I have not come to be thy penance, no, I am here to hold thy candle brighter, to make thy night much less weirder, to the side of willow river and make a dart into thy deepened hole of safety and say to thy family you love them better and listen to your little mice that complain of washing and complain of chores but lead your life as you best can for times will come and leave you better beside the river and your cavern and your pretty mice wife, hither.
The next day riders from other Blackfoot tribes came
And Mountain Chief, Moon Cow, and three other men
Rode off to a great meeting of Chiefs
I knew, and could tell,
That nobody was pleased with what the U.S. Army was doing
And tension was clearly in the air
Nobody felt comfortable
And people were becoming worried
These proud people were feeling scared
In the very land they had always lived free.
I spent the next few days with Willow and Lily
Walking through the grassland and forests
Looking for fuel and food
Waiting, I guess,
Our presence comforted each other
Reassured each other
All three of us had become very close
With all the time we had shared over the winter
It was exciting for me to recognize
How much Lily had already learned from her mother
She was very good at finding the herbs
That her mother would ask her to find for her
She would come back with a handful of them
And an even bigger smile on her face.
Willow told me that she had heard of other tribes
Being forced into slavery
To being held captive on certain land
The Government had given them
If they signed a Peace Treaty
I listened quietly,
For I had also heard such things
Further in the South and East
And was saddened from what I did hear
I asked Willow if she would want to live like that
And she said that she would not
She was born free and would obey nobody but the earth
I asked her if she would rather
Live off the land like a nomad
Always wandering more and more
Or if she would like to live more like Amy & Frank
She said she did not know
But that she did see the benefit of having land
To return to every year
Like Amy & Frank had
She asked me if I could build a house
Like Frank had built.
After four days and four nights
Mountain Chief returned with Moon Cow
And directly summoned me
And the other elders of the tribe
Into a gathering
He told us everything that had been talked about
How the other Chiefs didn’t trust
The U.S. Army men
That they threatened our whole way of life
And that if they got their way
It would be the end of us
He told us of visions he had listened to
And told us of his own vision
He himself had had one night
While camped along the river
He told us he had seen an owl
And had walked closer to ask him
What he was going to do
And the owl had told him
That when he sees the mouse
He then plans his action
In the middle of the night.
Mountain Chief told us that we would stay for two more days
On their traditional winter grounds
And that we would be moving
In the middle of the second night
So we all returned to our teepees
To begin preparation.
A cloud pulled at my ear lobes
And took my tingling nose
To an open pasture –
Exposed and sunken into slumber –
Tip-tapped drearily by menacing trinkets
And coo’ed at softly from a shallow hallow
Where an owl waited for midnight’s feast
With an impatient air.
I’m not quite sure the song,
Ending of no name.
Alone and upturned,
Grass in white snow.
Yet all around was soul,
Spinning in mid-winter foul.
Owls at twilight
Memories in dancing firelight.