The Man Who Married The Moon
by Jeffry J Brickley
Print Save Follow
Recent poems by Jeffry J Brickley
Of Youthful Ignorance
>> View all 18
Based on the Isleta Pueblo folk-tale as told by Charles F. Lumis 1897
This is my longest poem yet (though one epic longer is still in the works)
This is another tale from the ages of old,
From the age of the Tée-wahn this tale is told.
Like the Moon and Sun, the Trues created a hero too.
His name, “The Bluish Light of Dawn”: Nah-chu-rú-chu.
Though many feats of his are told in a pueblo year,
This tale above all to my own thoughts does endear.
See: there was one great love woven on fate's loom,
And that is the love of the man who married the Moon.
The Moon, at this time, had not gone up into the sky
She was a young and beautiful maiden with but one eye.
She had always sought Nah-chu-rú-chu, but was too shy;
With eternal youth and beauty, her chance would come nigh.
Such was Nah-chu-rú-chu: hunter, weaver and wise,
That to every maiden, he would make a great prize.
But to win his heart was not so simple a task,
He ignored every praise, and every one his hand to ask.
Soon all had given up on Nah-chu-rú-chu save the bold.
Yet two of those were known to be of the evil road.
These were the Yellow-Corn-Maidens evil as they were fair.
The last was the Moon, beautiful beyond compare.
Yet the lovely Moon maiden, known as Pah-hlee-oh,
Loved from afar, such that Nah-chu-rú-chu did not know.
But the Yellow-Corn-Maidens made it well known
That Nah-chu-rú-chu's house one of them would own.
So annoyed was Nah-chu-rú-chu that he made a plan
The town crier spread the word through the land.
Nah-chu-rú-chu would take a wife in but four days.
Each maid had but ground some flour from maize.
A simple test would show she with the greatest skill
She who passed the test Nah-chu-rú-chu's house would fill.
Any maid who wished could try her skillful hand
Thus the word was spread through the land.
Nah-chu-rú-chu's omate would be hung at this time
And the maid whose flour could be ground so fine
That to the surface of the gourd shaped pearl would stay
Nah-chu-rú-chu would take her as wife that day.
Each maid across the land, save one, then took up the chance.
For Pah-hlee-oh was away on errands at her father's ranch.
She knew not of the test the others had already begun
And when she finally returned the Yellow-Corn-Maidens made fun:
“Oh poor Pah-hlee-oh, we all have three days start
You have lost your chance; someone else shall have his heart!”
And they laughed as they watched her run away.
Yet though hours were left this was Pah-hlee-oh's day.
Though every other maiden had made a handful or more
Pah-hlee-oh took only a few kernels as her heart did soar.
Furiously she worked on but a pinch of flour
As rapidly approached the testing hour.
Nah-chu-rú-chu hung the gourd shaped pearl cup
And the young maids of the village lined them selves up.
Though one maid were nowhere to be found
Still she worked, a fine flour to quickly ground.
Each maid took her turn and tossed her finely ground meal
And each watched in turn the truth to reveal.
So perfectly smooth was this dipper of pearl,
That not one grain stayed, not from any girl.
Last came the Yellow-Corn-Maidens with a prayer to intone
Again and again they threw meal 'till all their work was thrown.
“The test is unfair!” they cried, “no one here has such skill.”
“Wait.” said Nah-chu-rú-chu, “one maid is left to test her will.”
The Yellow-Corn-Maidens saw then Pah-hlee-oh.
“Hoh! Pah-hlee-oh, you have had but hours you know.
You have no hope, go back home you silly thing!”
Yet she ignored the taunts, and one tiny handful she did fling.
Everyone watched in amazement on that special day
For so finely was the meal ground, that every grain did stay.
“Rejoice!” said Nah-chu-rú-chu, “Pah-hlee-oh is now my wife.”
“Since I have much, you shall never want for all your life.”
Nah-chu-rú-chu gave her buckskin, cotton and mantas to wear
So that all would know he had chosen Pah-hlee-oh the fair.
Nah-chu-rú-chu and his sweet Moon-wife were happy indeed
And the village prospered as Nah-chu-rú-chu's love was freed.
Never was there a happier couple in all of Isleta Pueblo
For Nah-chu-rú-chu loved his beautiful one-eyed Pah-hlee-oh.
But the Yellow-Corn-Maidens were jealous of her still
And Nah-chu-rú-chu sat his wife down and spoke his will.
“Moon-wife, beware for the Yellow-Corn-Maidens will do you harm.
They have the evil road so you must always refuse their evil charm.
They will not rest a single night until they have their revenge upon you.
Please do this, my Moon-wife, I warn you because my love is true .”
“You must never do anything that they would say.”
And always the young wife did as she promised that day.
One day the Yellow-Corn-Maidens came to the door
“We are off to collect amole, can Pah-hlee-oh help in this chore?”
So that the village could have soap, this was an honorable task
And would be rude to refuse any villager that asked
And so Nah-chu-rú-chu gave permission to his wife.
He whispered, “Remember our talk, I fear for your life.”
Before they came to the plain to collect what the sought
The went into the forest and the sister said water they forgot
But an old well was near and the walk to the plain was long
But Pah-hlee-oh refused to go near in case something was wrong.
The Yellow-Corn-Maidens approached the well to see
“Look at the clear water, your beauty you will see”
Now this is the moon's weakness to look at her reflection this way,
In fact it is true of the Moon we know to this very day.
As Pah-hlee-oh came nigh to the deep, dark well
The evil sisters pushed her and drowned her in that dell.
They quickly buried it, well and all so none would ever know
And then back to their village with amole would go.
When his lovely wife had not returned by sun's set
He worried more that his wife, trouble, had been beset.
To the Yellow-Corn-Maidens house he walked in great strides
“Yellow-Corn-Maidens” he asked, “what happened to my bride?”
“Oh she found enough amole long before we ever could
And returned home before us, through the great wood.”
He thought then they must have had their will.
It was as he had thought; they had done the Moon ill.
And so Nah-chu-rú-chu went to the tallest ladder of the pueblo
And from that point he strained his eyes looking for Pah-hlee-oh.
So intent on his search, he did not eat, nor rest, nor speak
Yet with strength of heart, he refused to grow weak.
From that moment all went wrong in the great Isleta pueblo
For the world was affected by the mourning of Pah-hlee-oh.
The crops in the field died in the parched ground
No water fell from the skies; soon no water was to be found.
The counsels then met to discuss this cruel fate
We must find Pah-hlee-oh or our troubles will be great.
So they summoned the Eagle to smoke the sacred weed:
“Please search for Pah-hlee-oh; please come to our need.”
So the Eagle who of all creation had the sharpest of eye
Set off in his search for Pah-hlee-oh and flew higher than high
He flew up 'till he saw the whole world down below
And strained his sharp vision in search of Pah-hlee-oh.
He returned to the village tired and depressed
“I flew up high to see all, north, south, east and west.
Still I found no sign of the Moon, be she live or dead.
I could find no sign of her that to Nah-chu-rú-chu is wed.”
Saddened the village called Coyote to join the smoke prayer
“Please, Coyote, find us Pah-hlee-oh, find her no matter where.”
So Coyote went off with nose strained to the ground
To search the whole of the world, but no where was she found.
“Forgive me, for I failed you, no where could I find the Moon.”
So they called forth Badger in hopes he'd find her soon.
But Badger again failed as he pawed and dug across the land
Naught was found of she who had taken Nah-chu-rú-chu's hand.
Finally as all the animals of the land walked crying in the dry river
The sought one last hope, but that hope caused a fearful shiver.
“We go now to the Water-Goose Grandfather, he who finds the dead.”
“I heard of the search, and feared you would come to me,” he said.
“Sorrowful am I, that the last hope is now mine, this I will not fail.”
And so with his promise, he arose, great black wings and tail.
And he flew higher than high, searching a sign that she was dead:
So high, and so near the sun, it burned all the feathers from his head.
Pained and sorrowful, he returned from his great flight
“I searched the world over, I searched with all my might.
But not one sign did I find, yet as I returned I did see:
A dirt mount covered in flowers as beautiful as She.”
“Oh,” cried Nah-chu-rú-chu, finally moving with this to say:
“Water-Goose Grandfather, great Pah-ku-ee-teh-ay-deh,
Please, though you are pained from what you have found,
Return to me a flower from the center of this beautiful mound.”
And the great buzzard did as Nah-chu-rú-chu asked
Thus Nah-chu-rú-chu returned to his home to begin a great task.
The villagers followed to see what would happen there
And Nah-chu-rú-chu bent to his chore with the greatest of care.
He took down a new manta and spread it upon the floor,
Placing the flower in the center as the village watched from the door.
Then placing another new manta gently over the bloom.
He dressed then in buckskin made by his sweet Moon.
Then seated at the head of the mantas began to sing and pray
“Shú-nah, shú-nah! Ai-ay ai-ay ai-ay.
Seeking her, seeking her! There-away, there-away.
Shú-nah, shú-nah! Ai-ay ai-ay ai-ay.”
With each verse of his song, the flower grew and grew,
Until at last a form could be seen, it was the Moon they knew.
And finally when the verses had been repeated in count of five,
Pah-hlee-oh sat up below the manta, beautiful and alive!
For four days the people danced and sung in the pueblo square
For four days they rejoiced in the return of Pah-hlee-oh the fair.
Rain returned to the land, the crops grew with water from above,
For Nah-chu-rú-chu has had returned to him, she whom he did love.
But Pah-hlee-oh told her husband what had befallen her
And something had to be done, this fate he would not defer.
“Go now and take this magical hoop to the evil pair.
Act as if you remember nothing of what happened to you there.”
“Get them to play a game, and their fate will be as one.
Go now, go to the Yellow-Corn-Maidens, and let this be done.”
So Pah-hlee-oh went and acted innocent of the past
And took them to the plain and showed the hoop at last.
"Oh give it to us Pah-hlee-oh, it is too beautiful for you,
Please give it to us, we only speak what is true .”
But Pah-hlee-oh would not give it; they had to play.
And only Pah-hlee-oh saw what happened that day.
As the two sisters jumped through the magical ring,
Their true selves to the surface would suddenly bring.
Instead of two maids, two snakes were then found,
And they cried great snake tears to cover the ground.
Then Moon came up and put corn pollen on each head
And they knew the Moon remembered being left as dead.
“Now you have the true reward of your great treachery
Here is your home, and you shall never be found on the prairie.”
“You will never bite a person, woman, man, or child.
Here you shall always live, ever in the wild.”
And so the Moon returned to her husband with the tale
And the snakes lived there, never venturing to the dell.
Yet once in a while, these snakes would be brought to the pueblo:
To hunt mice, and rats, never biting people as cursed by Pah-hlee-oh.
And Pah-hlee-oh and Nah-chu-rú-chu lived happily ever more,
And never once did the Yellow-Corn-Maidens return to their door.
The Poet Dreamer