The problem With Intelligent Design Is those old bones Those dinosaurs
Also that of 10,000 dreams of creation One would be right And the followers of all the others Consigned to hell If so, I go gladly, clutching Dinosaur bones to my chest And will enjoy the diversity Not the narrow heaven with a narrow Small-minded deity
But is evolution right?
Well, I think it’s on the right track
But wholly done and all correct?
After all, think how often Medicine has been wrong Think of tobacco and vioxx Think of Galen, over 2000 years ago Thinking that evil humors built up in the uterus Causing hysteria External pelvic massage was the cure For over 2000 years For old maids, widows and nuns Who had no male to cleave unto Massage was a treatment into the early 1900s And now we wonder about prozac too
Evolution is an evolving science
I think of when my son was four And he watched “Jurassic Park” Against my wishes Because I thought it was too violent He studied it carefully many times
One day he asked me, anxiously, “Mom, is DNA real?” To check that it wasn’t another of those Santa stories I was able to reassure him Yes, I think DNA is real He was pleased
A few days later he announced That when he grows up He wants to be a plant and animal scientist Extract DNA from amber And grow those dinosaurs
A laudable ambition For any four year old
If God left the dinosaur bones Around to fool us And they never lived She has a nasty sense of humor And my son and I will not forgive
Disclaimer: I am not Native American. I am not male. I did not live here when the ships arrived. I wrote this thinking about a dream a friend told me, about a bear. So it’s the fault of a dream bear, this story.
One I am wailing. I am crying. The Bear came today, our bear, the tribe’s bear, our Spirit.
But he didn’t just walk through camp and take fish and his tribute.
He took my son.
He walked right up to where my wife stood still, as we must when he comes, and he lifted the boy in his paws. The boy was quiet and still, he did well, he was brave, but when the bear turned to leave, he called once.
Then our bear dropped to three legs, my son in the fourth, and turned and left.
My son, my son, my heart, my joy. Spirit Bear, return him to me! Two We fought, argued, for a very short time. The Shaman said that if Spirit Bear wants my son, he shall have him.
He does have him, I said, but I want him back. The Shaman knew that was true. Some shook their heads and say that my son is already dead, but most agreed with me. We were on the trail nearly immediately. The bear should not be able to move as quickly as usual when he is carrying my son. I dread evidence of my son’s loss, that he will be eaten. But that has never happened, in the history, in the songs. The Shaman said as much. But neither has a bear taken a chief’s son.
Three Spirit Bear is moving amazingly fast on three legs. He is headed for the mountains. Not a surprise. My son may get cold. But bears are warm. My son has not been eaten. Four We have to make camp. I am so angry that we have not caught Spirit Bear. Out of our home camp he is fair game.
We do the Bear Dance, four times. We did not bring the masks and the young men dance the women’s part and one sings the woman’s part. We made quick rough masks and costumes. The Spirits will forgive us. This is past all understanding.
What does a Spirit Bear want with my son? Four years. No one knows.
Five Day again. I am up before dawn praying for light, for my son, to find the Spirit Bear. Six We are hot on the trail. We find that Spirit Bear did sleep and rest. My son is dropping beads. Smart boy. Each bead means that he is still alive and relatively unhurt. Seven We have spotted them. Spirit Bear stood and looked down at us, my son tucked against his side. My son very slowly raised his arm, so he knows. Eight We are approaching the peak. Everyone is tired from the climb and hungry and thirsty. Yet we keep going. No one complains. Nine We reach the peak and Spirit Bear and my son. We arm our spears and arrows, but my son shouts “No! Look!” We turn. We see the water. There is something in the water. It has tannish wings that are filled with wind. It is huge compared with our boats.
We turn to my son. He stands and Spirit Bear leaves, ambling down the mountain, quickly, gone. I hurry to my son, sweep him up. He starts shaking and then cries, leaning his head into me.
We turn and watch the tan winged thing, which is coming against the wind. It comes at an angle and then turns, to the opposite angle, yet still it comes. We know this is new and that there can be terror or joy, we do not know which. There will be learning, we know that.
My son falls asleep. We carry him down to water and camp. We are all singing quietly, the song of new things, fear and joy. The Shaman will welcome us when we are home, and we will prepare for the winged thing. We do not know what it will bring.
We thank the Spirit Bear for warning us, for telling us to prepare.
The first poem in this trilogy was written in 1984. The next two were written twenty years later. Like ouroboros, the snake eating its own tail.
The first poem popped into my head while I was thinking about flowers. The second two were both problem poems. Most of my poems are problem poems: I sit down with a problem that I am working on and start writing about it. I do not know where the poem is going to go and I am always surprised. And it often goes somewhere that I don’t expect. Often it is a map for where I aspire to go emotionally, but usually I am not there yet when I finish the poem.
It seems to be one of my irritable days They come rolling round in the month of May I don’t feel friendly and don’t want to play It seems to be one of my irritable days
It seems to be one of those days when I’m mad At nothing particular. I feel really bad I hate those damn tourists who always wear plaid I really intensely dislike feeling sad
I haven’t felt quite this bad since last year But I’m not one to cry. I don’t like weak tears I’m not one to let myself feel any fears I haven’t felt this bad for almost a year
It seems to be one of those days when I’m mad I think I’ll go pick a nice fight with that lad He looks too damn happy and just too damn glad When I’m punching his lights out I won’t feel so sad
It seems to be one of my irritable days Going to work on them just doesn’t pay My boss’s revenge just goes on for days Today it’s so bad that I can’t even pray
Helen Burling Ottaway, my mother, died May 15, 2000. I wrote this poem in the early 2000s. Her birthday was May 31, right near Memorial Day. Mother’s Day always falls near her death.
I am putting up a series of poems that I titled Falling angels, after a dream, where all the stars in the sky started falling. I was frightened and then realized that they were all angels. Then I was more frightened.
I think we need poetry and dreams and angels during this difficult time. Even if the angels are all falling.
I took the photograph of my mother. A friend loaned me his 35mm camera and I took one roll of pictures and gave the camera back to him. Almost all of the photographs I took were portraits.
With the poem “There was a little girl” in my head.
It starts like the real poem, but then it changes. Three times. It starts three times and each version is different.
I nearly got up the first time to write it down, but I nailed it solidly into my memory and went back to sleep.
The third time I think I dreamed the poem and then I am on a golf course. I am playing golf with President Obama.
“It’s really windy today.” says the president. He is cheerful and smiling.
I am calm even though I suck at golf. There is no one else around and it’s sunny and beautiful and windy.
“Let’s play the course in a different order,” says the president. “Let’s avoid the wind. I know you can hit it any distance, but let’s go in the order that is shortest and easiest. So we will tee off from one but hit it to the flag on two.”
There is no one else on the course. And it is beautiful. And I suck at golf anyhow and what the hell? It is not conventional but when have I EVER bothered with that.
This is the dream that wakes me this morning. Before I went to sleep last night I asked for a dream. It’s when I am writing the dream out this morning that I realize that it’s my sister’s birthday. She died of cancer in 2012. Memory and dreams as tracery.
I am in a group of people on a platform. It is dark around us. It reminds me of a platform from a ropes course. In the ropes course we had to balance it. A rectangular platform on a log roller, held somewhat at the corners to keep it from dumping us entirely. A group version of a balance board. The trick is really that everyone has to stand still and only one person moves, very small amounts, until it is balanced.
But we are dancing in the dream. We are dancing, but people are uncomfortable. I am not sure why. Perhaps because we were dancing all together but individually and now there is a couple dancing. I realize that people are halting, worried.
I want them to be comfortable. I gesture to an older man. He comes towards me. His wife is there. He and I start dancing but I realize right away that this doesn’t make people more comfortable. They are less comfortable and even the other couple dancing stops. We are lit from above with darkness all around. No spot light follows us, so we move in and out of the light.
As soon as I realize that nearly everyone is uncomfortable, I stop my partner. He is an excellent dancer but that is not what is important here. I move with him back towards his wife and I sit on the platform. They sit as well. The other people around us relax. That is what they want, to sit, to talk quietly, to listen. That is what will make everyone comfortable. The others are settling around us, relieved.
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