Letter to Skamokawa

 for JCH

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 Peter Emerson

 

 

*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.