Voices on the Wind
Voices in the Garden
SECOND DAY OF AN EIGHT-DAY POEM
by Dick Bakken
Friday, July 14, 1969, Spokane Foothills:
overlooking Spokane River, Spokane Valley, Appleway Rd.
No God ever dies. —HDT
“Willie Wiley’s here!”
We children skipped from schoolyard to river
to peek into the tin-and-wood junkhouse nailed on back
of your shortbed glory truck:
Yi! a skunk, raccoon, wild doves,
scrawny one-eyed Coyote, rattlesnakes in a box, jackrabbits,
tramp dogs with suckling pups, chickens happy to lay
squatting rusty axes, stained shovels.
On one shining shoulder,
a hunched Raven gulping fruit,
wiping beak in grizzled uncut hair and whiskers.
In naked arms, a fed opossum asleep cozy
against hairy belly.
No clothes ever—unshod in snowfall—just shabby brown shorts.
Bare-chested, Willie, you chugged around
in that one-lung backfiring Ford to Spokane’s orchards
and picked to keep all mongrels
hardy as you,
gut glad as sunup eggs.
“Each word, once a poem”—Emerson.
So yes Spokane—a Redman’s breath meaning Children of the
Sun. All redskins are of the sun. Earth Doctor stood
back in a grin. First Man
beheld sun and the apple, sang ringing out
“Hoy! This is good medicine.”
Whole blooming country planted by bare-soled Appleseed John,
skinny old halfwit in rags, purse full of seeds,
sowing fruit, green healing herbs,
thrived through wilderness on walnuts, wild honey,
like the savages who dreamed him holy.
“He has a devil. My little Elsie says she sang in his lap
and he touched her curls.
By Jesus, I christened her with a rawhiding
that’ll cure her shines.”
Old wild man—once a spindly ghost—you threw off clothes,
foxed the sawbones and cross-kissers who gospeled
you’d die. Hah-ha! sun
and sharp air gave you heart and wind,
quick flesh, good red humor. Years after those pill-pushers croaked,
you still kicked your coughing Ford and laughed,
crunched apples every day, sipped
at this riverside shacked in scrap wood, cardboard, tin,
snoring naked in only a blanket, one arm
round dogs, or a rooster,
one hand in shabby shorts ahold of the devil. Hiya! now I’m alive
again in these foothills. Hoo! you danced Spokane’s children
in the sun under apple boughs, over buttercups,
bluebells, bachelor buttons,
meadowlark warbling in our scrubpine, Raven, bluejay,
Coyote, loon, hoot owl crooning too:
This earth—O Holy Land!—blooms for sunskins
long as grass shall grow and water flow—
rang Appleseed John
scattering this world’s garden.
Singing even to the stones, steaming
with breath, a boy
—Ilumhu Spokanee, little Chief Sun, Spokane Garry—
splashed into this river shining clear and plenty as Creation,
leaping red with salmon. Here deer bowed
to drink with man (service berries
huckleberries, choke cherries, kinnickkinick)
before a sick God bibled
“Subdue the Earth.”
What a stink today—one more rubbish stream—
fish choked off. The buffalo journey—lost behind a fast whiteline
Aie! beaver. Aie! muskrat. Aie! bear. Aie yi! highway!
Coyote! Spirit bird of the people vanished
here to the rocket-launch wasteland.
Whiteman, you don’t dance, gone mealy you hate
Ayee! your loco god is mighty—
but mine is good medicine.
Gold in the Black Hills!
So sickskins butchered Oglalas, shoveled up
plowed on and on into Wallowa Valley.
Get rich quick! Fast roar
of Spokane Falls—was gold to them.
They struck everything so rich.
Bullet-proof Crazy Horse, trickster Geronimo. slippery old man Joseph—
the sickskins gunned those children down like dogs
in the dirt they loved.
While Coyote and Raven cried, barefoot John swallowed
his heart, shook seeds into their open mouths,
bleeding bellies, hands.
Today in a valley market, looking for something bloomed.
Boxes, cans, bottles—nothing but garbage.
Wagh! whites invented garbage.
Buckskin shirt, wily hair to my shoulders, barefoot,
I asked for John’s apples, corn ears,
anything burst new from Spokane ground, got
a shave-head boss screaming me away:
“Get out! Get out of here!
You look like the trash
of the earth!”
Snows and snows before this moonshot was schemed,
you zoomed above Spokane Falls—just shorts and goggles—
strapped in an open one-prop bi-winger, full
throttle into sub-zero wind—
this river but thread
through so much land at a glance.
Earth was close enough to the sun for you.
You came down to rattle back across our America
with your Coyote, cooing dove,
toward the sun, Spokane’s “merry ambassador,” laughing, patting
belly, pulling hairs on a broad chest—
jailed in Portland for nudity, cuffed again, again, shut up
in Chicago, shaved bald
for garbing savage-style, chatting with children—
the whole menagerie locked up—
back over this Oregon Trail, the Lewis and Clark Trail, the
Appleseed Trail, the long hard Trail of Tears.
REDSKINS DANCING BAREFOOT IN SNOW STOP DREAMERS
CALLING BUFFALO STOP JOHN BAPTISING APPLES STOP
WHAT CAN WE DO STOP REPEAT DANCING IN SNOW STOP
“I want that apple planter’s head. Before sunup
wake Sitting Bull, blow out his ghost
from behind and let’s
get on with blasting to the moon.
As for redskins, Let them eat grass, Nits make lice, Good injuns
are dead. Gun the ponies, dump camus roots, jerky,
fire those tipis, roll savages to any hole in the earth, toss in that apple
man and his bag of seeds.”
What you dreamed, good Willie,
is a garden on earth for two-leggeds and four-leggeds,
a home for anyone, cared for by you. Yes you
kept a cowhide case packed with scribbles,
seeds, healing herbs, a pregnant maimed field mouse in a
packed it barefoot into the temple of justice.
But what does a Governor care? lying to sunskins,
stalling till they’re dead, getting ready
his birthday supper smile.
Just before high school—grizzled, stiff, hard—
all we Spokane children sneaked close to peek at you—Willie
Wiley, almost naked in the narrow box—
little armfuls of lilacs and tulips.
Next to the depth before your planting
Elsie dared touch your cold lips with her pulsing
finger, breathed your name and John’s. Others touched
your shut eyes, nose, cheeks
just as dead Garry’s blind squaw felt over his face at the dirt drop
while whites whooped off with his last flea-bit cayuse.
Tramping Garry’s foothills (ten years past Spokane schooling),
I lug that cowhide pack—
Willie Wiley stamped on flap—
uncovered by my dad in the junk store (Goodwill),
saved till I journeyed home again.
Surprise! my eyes startling at the flap and up
to my beaming father.
After the Jesus funeral and midnight
weathered squaws dug out Geronimo, dragged him who
knows where. Each starnight
old women steal some goodskin back to his
Hoi, that’s how to use the moon,
laughs their Old Man,
watching down his long nose, one-eyed.
Hear me—somewhere among the rubbish—grass growing
out of their mouths, open hands, through their bones
wind whistling, through such wilds
John’s voice crying—
Eat the apple, sow your seed, all that blooms
“Hear me, my chiefs, I am tired. My heart
is sad and sick. From where the sun now shines
I will fight no more forever.
See how bad you have hurt me, my friends.
Once I moved about like the wind.
Now I give myself up to you
and that is all.”
Supper-time, White-Eyes. Here’s John’s head on a plate
and a slut to roll her hip for your purse.
Here’s your garbage can. Smile,
you’re on color TV eagling to the moon. Let’s see your grin
full of Black Hills gold.
O Good Will, wily red-humored Old Man, you stripped
off pockets, never looked to heaven
or the moon
but naked roared a twisted ark of living trash
into an earth-rooted tree
and busted your glad heart. No more whizzing America’s trailways,
or Spokane’s Appleway, junker howling
with mongrels, wild beard and hair flowing past startled child
me. Lie still,
covered at last, like each child of the sun, under Spokane
loam and grass, mouth full of roots, an apple tree
standing from your heart.
When that rattletrap ark busted-up against its tree
nothing flew moonward.
Needles and seed cones rained down all around little curly Elsie—
who saw a snake slide out, raven and doves wing away
low into scrubpine, Coyote, all his critters
slip south— and
a red man leap from the wreckage to sprint barefoot
into sunlit scrub after the animals.