“At Old Oraibi” by Kathleen S. Burgess

At Old Oraibi_rules and signs
“Rules and Signs” by Laura Didyk, Sharpie on paper, 2015.

In winds that skirt the San Francisco Peaks, we
wait to understand the village silence with our own.
Signs warn, Do Not Enter. Buildings seem in ruins.

Other tourists come, go away. We hear murmurs,
wind, but no words until an elder of the Bear Clan—
the chief—materializes, beckons, unlocks the gate.

Her 10-year-old grandson Ray shines like his name,
a beam of light through banked clouds. He guides us
over Third Mesa to the ruins of a mission church

taken down three times by lightning and fire. Why?
we ask. Because it was Spanish? He answers, Yes.
Amid the debris of centuries, we reconsider history

of the Pueblo Uprising. Only the Hopi remained free.
Now women offer us crisp cornets of blue corn piki.
Ray swings a bull-roarer of lightning-struck pine,

a long, thin, turquoise leaf shape. One side painted
with a cloud, lightning bolts, two bear paws; the other,
with a bear kachina. Spinning on a string, it buzzes

like a tiny wing, whirrs the call for thunder and rain.
We buy this handmade toy to remember that Hopi
rituals mean to save the world. Without electricity,

or running water, the Hopi conjure corn from dust,
trusting fields to snowmelt, cloudburst, or water cans.
So leaves leap fresh that bear no witness to drought.



Kathleen S. Burgess, poet, editor, retired music teacher, union officer, statistical typist, server, factory solderer, videographer, and hitchhiker through North, Central, and South America, has poetry in North American Review, The Examined Life, Evening Street Review, Malpaís Review, Turtle Island Quarterly, Mudfish, other journals and anthologies. A chapbook Shaping What Was Left and the anthology she edited Reeds and Rushes—Pitch, Buzz, and Hum are Pudding House publications. Two new collections Hitchhiking to Peru and The Wonder Cupboard are forthcoming.

Read an interview with Kathleen here.

1 thought on ““At Old Oraibi” by Kathleen S. Burgess

  1. Pingback: Interview with Kathleen S. Burgess | Rkvry Quarterly Literary Journal

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