Monday, September 09, 2013

Ishi Tramontane

This week, our assignment was to rewrite an old poem using some drastic revision methods.  This is a poem I never finished but had started back in April during my last poem-a-daying stint.  I tried some bold revisions and came up with this next draft. 
Ishi Tramontane


The paradise we tend is permeable.
There are afternoons when we walk back up the gravel drive
from the bus stop, rocks popping beneath our weight,
when the shadows that lean in fill me with my own childhood fear:
visceral, it reaches its metal fingers to the back of my throat.
It is a mountain we continual climb toward home.  Toward truth.
Beyond the mountains is where paradise has any hope to begin.


In 5th grade the kids begin a unit on Native Americans.
After school, my son asks me:  Do you know about who Ishi is Mom?
Of course.
  I say.  But I can’t see the perimeter between
what he’s been told—and the truth; what’s been walled in
to protect his innocence.  Do we discuss how many massacres Ishi survived:
Three Knolls, Kingsley Cave? Or, how the stones of Deer creek
were covered in blood.  Or, what desperation must have led Ishi
out of the dark woods into the arms of  those who had slaughtered all he had loved.
Or, that Ishi was not his given name.  It is only the Yahi word for man.
His name died with his people. And that these facts are only small pieces of the whole
tiny moths flutters toward a light. How much will carry him up the mountain
how much will paralyze him with fear.  I want to tell him everything I know.
Instead I say You are lucky, when I was little, we never learned about Ishi in school.


At dawn, a rosy light covers new buds
on dark fingers of Gravenstein apple trees. 
Across the valley, a flat scallop of hills rises into light
as if to claim perimeter. Paradise is this—
what truth we wall in.  But with the dawn come
the sea birds: gulls, cormorants, cranes and all
they carry back and forth between—


No comments: