Indian Child

Reservation raised.
the raven-haired boy
sits quiet in the classroom.

“Slow learner…”
           He learned slowly how to feel
           secure, rocked in the stride
           of his mother’s step. content in the
           rhythmic chant of her prayers
           as she gathered greens among rocks.
           pine nuts and shells for his play.

“Can’t hold a pencil,
motor skills underdeveloped…”
           Crawled early out of the basket
           his mother wove, scurried back
           when danger approached
           like a sand crab to its hole.
           Learned at two to ride a stick horse,
           whip seaweed against sand.

“Has trouble with primary colors, and numbers…”
           Knows the reds of painted drums,
           tints of towhees.  Can count migrating birds,
           knows the seasons they appear,
           hues of butterfly wings, names
           of flowers along miles of mountain
           streams and foot hills.

“Finds it difficult to socialize…”
           Runs squealing among
           grandparents, uncles and aunts–
           cousins he chases in play.
           Gathers willow roots with elders,
           listens to legends of raven and bear,
           sings with dancers till fires die.

“Daydreams a lot…”
           Thinks in his tribal language
           about the power of eagle feathers.
           path of geese flying south, water
           slapping against fish boats; recalls
           the taste of hazel nuts, deer meat,
           the touch of wrinkled hands.

“Culturally disadvantaged…”
           Different in the way he thinks about earth,
           sacred and unowned, healing ground
           close to a mothering power, kinship
           with hawk, whale, Northern red oak;
           remembers a heart that strays
           from nature
                      turns to stone.

© Kay Mullen