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Patricia Ranzoni

  

Valley
or
Deer Eyes All This Way from Cherokee Appalachia Helping Me See How to Say Goodbye to My Father's Land

for Awiakta, whose name means eye of the deer

 

We follow the old paths, flicking off flies.

                                   We reach the brook, wade.

                                                We brace in the current, sensing.

We've learned to live with stakes, but we know fear and time to go.

We drink deep, source dripping from our soft mouths.

We don't know what is ahead we only know the arrow is set to the bow.

We keep our eyes open through mist to the memory of light off leaves and heads high
we listen for sign through the sad sayings of water and stone
we know where we belong.

                                   We climb back up the north bank soon to be gone.

We fold ourselves down, grandmothers side by side in cloud-haired sun, remembering.

We tremble with the ground from trucks speeding by, letting our lids close off
           what has been ours to know and dream back and forth.

We dream old dreams new and you dream me back my dream laughing
           and splashing, young here, brother and sisters rafting this small bloodsucker surf,
           then grown, then with my own. Our sheep and cattle invited to graze
           through the years to keep it from growing in. You dream me back my dream
           of wild berries, game, milk, apples, greens, how that land held and fed
           and sang us how it streams every cell-of-us still MOTHER!
           The water-drained ground of each rapt-eyed mother laboring her lamb
           or calf glistening into the world, licking it to life
           to stand and just know where to find what it needs what is any warm milk
           but a drink of place?

           Until I dream you back your telling of the last day of Roland the Cherokee and                 dream you
           I see what it is like to sling a poem at a dam
           and the mountainous sorrows of mountain people being Removed again
           in trails of tears and

we dream back and forth the drowning of the Little Tennessee Valley
           and your dream of Roland in silence listening to the water flooding forever 
           ancient birth and burial grounds
           dream of warrior Roland shedding his clothes in winter weeds your
           dream of Roland circling the boulder of the sacred fire pit the Old Ones
           said still burned deep in the earth, circling the rock with rope, your dream
           of Roland muscling seven knots about his naked waist
           tight...tighter...bracing his back to the granite and the water higher....higher
           his spirit aimed and his elder up a towering ledge oak keeping watch for it
           arcing into the sky the Old One climbing down to take the message,
           as promised, to the people. "Begin again."
We dream what comes of such wrong and I dream you I know it's a small grief
           to lose a small deer run even if the hay where we have been all this time
           is bedding I've called beautiful and you dream me back no lost homeland
           is small but of earth's whole grief the One Creaturebeat
           and we dream this together in the mystery of shared insight
           that is the only comfort for becoming rememberers
           and dream each other that in the same way our spirits know they are of The                 One
           we know this little pasture and its brook and the waters raining and welling
           and breaking into it are all of The One What Is and its One Water so
           will return to us some other way in time
           for the next ones drawn and

we rise above it.

 
The story "The Last Day of Roland The Cherokee" comes from Marilou Awiakta's chapter titled "Arrow of Warning and Hope: The Cherokee vs. Tellico Dam" in her book, Selu, Seeking the Corn-Mother's Wisdom (Fulcrum Publishing, 1993) and is re-seen this way with her permission.

   

Patricia Ranzoni grew up along the northern reach of the Appalachian range, where she now writes from a farm in Bucksport, Maine. Her first collection, Claiming, was published in 1995 by Puckerbrush Press, which, in 2000, brought out her second, Settling. She is a founder of SpiritWords/Maine Poetries Collaborative and Maine Poetry & Story Exchange.
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