Thursday, January 11, 2018

Today i'm posting the coyote and raven myth that comes up first in my new book, Shoodii Bill. This poem is based on a cautionary children's story that i wrote many years ago as, The Raven Shirt. After the poem, the story of Shoodii Bill begins. I'll post that later.


In the Moon of the Great Ghost Face

In the moon of the great ghost face,
In the shadow of the Mountain,
Along the banks of the Gila,
Coyotero Apache dwell.
Wiciup of willow and grass;
Bluestem, bear grass, lashed with yucca.
Hide and smoke, and vessels of clay,
Burden baskets willow woven,
Devil’s claw adorned, buckskin trimmed,
Bears all; food, wood, and swaddled babes.

In the moon of the great ghost face,
In the shadow of the mountain,
Along the banks of the Gila,
Ishkiin a boy, and a dreamer;
Dreams night and day of taking flight.
Awake, asleep, he dreams to fly.
Nighttime he slumbers among the stars.
He slumbers, he dreams, and he soars.
In dreams he blazes through the sky,
A shooting star, streaking the night.
Dawn creeps in, slides into his eyes.
A shifting feeling near his heart,
Drumming his heartbeat of longings.
A new day, a new day to dream,
Quickening breathlessness, yearnings.

In the moon of the great ghost face,
In the shadow of the mountain,
Along the banks of the Gila,
Sycamore, walnut, maple, ash,
Cottonwood, alder, and willow.
Gurgling croaks and scratchy caws;
Ravens like black seeds flung skyward,
Skyward into the gloomy face.
A face gray with winter’s warning.

In the moon of the great ghost face,
In the shadow of the mountain,
Along the banks of the Gila,
Cold, biting ice and blowing snow.
Ishkiin’s heart throbs, gallops, and flies.
Arms unfurl, fingers touch the wind.
Leaning into the swirl of snow,
To be a raven, to soar high,
Fingers aching, tingling to fly.
His heart thuds dully in his chest,
Arms too heavy to lift or move.
Heat and tears well behind his eyes,
Spill and freeze upon his brown cheeks.
Oh, to touch the raven’s wing…

In the moon of the great ghost face,
In the shadow of the mountain,
Along the banks of the Gila,
Upon his bear grass bed he lays,
Underneath his warm, red-wolf robe.
Threads of smoke from embers trailing,
Ascend like prayers through the smoke hole.
Sleep will not come—dreams forsaken.

A rustle in the shadows move.
Ishkiin stirs live embers for light.
To the willow a raven clings.
In the shadows, feathers ruffle.
Shike’ dahnnah, you follow me.”
The raven’s eyes flash in the dark.


In the moon of the great ghost face,
In the shadow of the mountain,
Upon the banks for the Gila,
Moccasin dance in the new snow.
Vapors of warm breath float and swirl,
He pulls his robe against the cold.
Upon the wiciup the bird clings.

Ishkiin, you are the boy who flies?”
The boy’s tongue lay mute in his mouth.
Hasidah, hasidah,” it said,
“You climb up there, Ishkiin, up there.”
Ba’ ts’ose, a shaman dwells,
Ba’ ts’ose, coyote knows.
Bayani’, elderly one knows.”

The boy’s heart froze, and then it pounds.
Still his tongue lay dead in his mouth.
His thoughts scramble to understand.

In the moon of the great ghost face,
In the shadow of the mountain,
Upon the banks of the Gila,
The mountain’s breath stirs the hoar frost,
Grown crystalline in the snow.
Biting cold nips inside his nose,
Vapors erupt with each footfall.
His muscles clinch along his jaw.

Upon the mountain he ascends.
Laboring tracks trail in the snow.
Sycamore, walnut, maple, ash,
Cottonwood, alder and willow.
Up through the pinyon-juniper,
Through the darkness of the tall pine,
Past the feathery topped spruce-fur,
Up above the quaking aspen,
Moccasin feet tread through the snow.

In the moon of the great ghost face,
In the shadow of the mountain,
Along the banks of the Gila,
Hunkered down by a small fire,
Sheltered in an ancient dwelling,
Ishkiin unearths Ba’ ts’ose.

A shaman sheltered from the cold,
Eerie eyes in the glow of light,
Age-old eyes, eyes of dark magic.
Fragrant piney-pinion embers
Sending threads of smoke heaven bound
Mix with the smell of dried nettles,
Jimson weed, roots, and earth odor.

“You are Ishkiin, the boy who flies?”
His cracked voice carries forewarning;
A shaman, trickster, coyote.
Ba’ ts’ose tosses wood to flame,
Burning brightly in the kiva.
Quivering shadows jump and dance;
Glowing orange in the kiva.
Painted creatures and shaman show,
Painted walls of magical dreams.
The warmth settles Ishkiin’s sad heart,
Rubbing his hands and aching legs.

Ba’ ts’ose takes from the shadows
A painted parfleche he opens.
A hide shirt, quilled with raven dreams;
Dreams of magic raven rising.
Adorned with feathers black as raven,
Ba’ ts’ose holds the magic shirt.
Raven shirt, mystic shirt, dreamlike.
Ishkiin wears the magical skin,
Spreading his arms, the feathers stream.

Clay vessels born of earth and fire,
Formed and smoked and etched with outline.
Held colored sand ground for magic.
White gypsum crushed, yellow ochre,
Charcoal and gypsum render blue,
Red sandstone and charcoal yields brown,
Browns of the earth, blues of the sky.
Sandstone and gypsum makes dawn’s blush.
Flower pollen of rainbow hues,
Corn meal pigment and roots and bark.
To be a sacred dream painting.
To chant, dance, and seek a vision.

Ba’ ts’ose makes his magic.
With four sacred feathers in hand,
Ishkiin sways, hops, shuffling feet,
Chanting a song from Ba’ ts’ose.
Colored sand dances in the dirt,
Raven’s image appears slowly,
Encircled by sacred feathers,
Colors of the four directions,
Colors of the sacred sun,
Colors of the sacred moon,
Trickle between nimble fingers.

Ba’ ts’ose sings his divine chant,
Ishkiin twirls, encircles with dance,
In the orange glow of the Kiva.
Night to day and then day to night,
All the while he seeks a vision.

On the third night, the wind blows cold,
Pinion wood embers blush glowingly.
Ba’ ts’ose rises from his crouch,
His fingers stained with earth’s colors.
Trembling, Ishkiin’s eyes sparkle,
Gleaming with expectation.
Guided to the sacred painting,
He rests on the magical image.
Emptiness gnaws at his stomach.
He fights faintness, twitchy muscles,
Quivering heart, quickening breath.
Ba’ ts’ose chants and fans smudged smoke.
Purified with sage and cedar,
A new song to raven he sings,
A new song to bring the vision.

Ishkiin feels the magic power.
His eyes close, his breath comes quickly.
Soon, he is envisaging dreams.
Flight, flight enchanting and tranquil.
In his vision he’s a raven.

Mountain breath blows through the kiva
Howling low, stirring the magic.
Colors of the four directions
Swirl and drift, mix and blow away.

Ishkiin stirs, awakens, startled.
Cold wind drifts snow in the kiva.
Shimmering eyes scan the shadows.
The shaman, Ba’ ts’ose has gone.
Deserted, he stretches his arms;
Quivering arms, feathered and black.
Could it be his vision came true?

Ishkiin has become a raven?
His heart’s desire, his longings filled?
With his long feathered arms outstretched
His heart is light and he ascends.

From the kiva, the raven wings.
The raven, who was the boy, rises,
Soaring into the cold dusky sky;
A sky of gloom, a dreary sky,
A vast open sky to discover.

Over the brow of the mountain,
Above the crest, the snowy peak,
Crowning the summit with eagles.
The moon’s face watches from above.
Night to day and then day to night,
All the while he lives his vision,
Taking wing in his endless flight.

The boundless night gives way to dawn.
Morning’s blush; sandstone and gypsum.
Come the first light, Ishkiin settles,
Shivering from the bitter cold.
Into the new dawn, ice-covered,
The thrill of flight wans with hunger.

“Oh, what fate is this?” the boy cries.
“I no longer desire to fly.
I want to be a boy again!”
Tears glistening in Ishkiin’s eyes.

Taking wing he sets out for home.
Gliding down the rocky cliff face,
Soaring by the quaking aspen,
Past the feathery topped spruce-fur,
Through the snow covered tall pine trees,
Down through the pinyon-juniper;
Sycamore, walnut, maple, ash,
Cottonwood, alder and willow.

In the moon of the great ghost face,
In the shadow of the mountain,
Along the banks of the Gila,
The coming dawn guides his flight home.
Wiciups bathed in blue sunlight,
Smoke, heaven bound, trails through smoke holes.
Outside his wiciup, he calls,
Haighah, come out! Come out!”
Ba’ ts’ose, appears as the boy.
Wearing the red-wolf robe, he smiles.
“You are Ishkiin, the boy who flies.”

“Coyote, shaman, you trickster,
The People will see through your hoax.
Change me back, coyote, change me.”

 “The People see you, boy, not me.
And they see a raven, not you.
Now you want back what you had?
But that you will not have again.
I know the song to sing to change,
And frozen in the snow you sit.
You are Ishkiin, the boy who flies.”

In the moon of the great ghost face,
In the shadow of the mountain,
Along the banks of the Gila,

Flies a raven, who was a boy.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Starting something different.

I am working on a new book titled, Shoodii Bill in The Moon of the Great Ghost Face. It's a coyote and raven myth set in Arizona and ending up in central Oklahoma. I will post my progress as I write and hope to get some positive feedback and suggestions. My first post will be the back page blurb that will be on the back of the book:

WHAT WENT WRONG in a blood soaked ravine down in Mexico was unavoidable—a misunderstanding. He had no choice. He did what he did and now he is on the run. Not that an Apache scout shooting another Apache scout is unforgivable, but he rides off on a white-eye cavalry officer’s prized horse.
A sorry-looking skeleton of a young man, his olive-drab breeches sag in the hind end. Long and slim, his features sharp. A persistent toothsome uplift of his mouth lacks warmth. He carries a weary expression all the time like he’s slinking around. Like he’s always hungry giving the impression that he’s miserably forsaken. None of it true, for the most part.
Shoodii Bill’s job is simple; bring back Lieutenant Ely’s horse stolen by the Mexicans. However, hidden in the shadows his whole life, and nearly forgotten, a voice, barely a whisper, floats on the heated air—Shik’isn Ba’ ts’ose,” Could it be the sound of the wind or is it coming from his Sargent who openly holds him in disdain? Tremors shake his body. Squeezing his eyes shut, he claps his hands over his ears shaking his head to dislodge the whispering voice.
And for reasons unknown to the other Apache scouts, Shoodii Bill raises his rifle and shoots Sergeant Big Chow, an Apache scout. The sergeant drops from sight. Shoodii Bill knows he cannot explain his peculiar reason for shooting the sergeant. No one moves a muscle to stop him as he swings aboard the big bay and lights out.

 The Calvary calls it murder and desertion. Shoodii Bill sees it differently. No one will believe his story. He knows this to be true from living among the white-eyes. They consider him an Indian and never trust him. To the Apache he is said to be a Ch’iin—an evil spirit—a ghost. How Shoodii Bill came to live with the white-eyes and ride with the Apache scouts down into Mexico, chasing Mexican horse thieves, and his flight into the great unknown, is a long story . . .