Letter to Skamokawa*
Dear Sir: With so much silence now, how can I know
if to send a word is to intrude?
The last thing, on such occasions, one wants to do
is to be rude. Or could it include
in some implicit form apology
both for good intent and possible mistake
so either way, say, like theology
believing makes it so – and so the risk is not so great?
All your signs, I know, are gone, swallowed up in tribal
claims that turned out bigger than your own.
Your drum is silent. Your feathered ceremonial
spear hangs on the wall a decoration.
The black spring-pool still
purls and never freezes
even down to 20 below.
Home now, I wonder how Smoke-upon-the-water
is breathing his old warrior’s meditation
in and out on your fluent tide; and what the otter
sleeping on a snag mid-slough thinks dedication
makes any difference to? I keep my heart
attuned to Aeolian modes the fingerless wind
makes moods of that neither end nor start
but live in reiterations of a feeling mind.
So, Sir, the silent air will breed its flapping of old wings
and where the osprey rises the bough still swings.
Yours cordially, of course, and with affection,
Friend, Brother, Enemy of Disconnection.
*Skamokawa was an Indian Chief, whose name means
‘Smoke-on-the-water’; now a small village on the banks of the
Columbia River, where ‘slough’ is pronounced slew.