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The blood of the Cherokee warrior and the dust of the Trail of Tears lingers in every American heart.
The Trail of Tears left a deep mark on the Cherokee nation, a mark that still ripples through the descendants of that culture. It should also leave an indelible mark on the current conscience. Come, Wewoka - Poems on the Trail of Tears is a collection of heartfelt reflections on Cherokee culture during those days and after. Diary of Medicine Flower - Cherokee Aphorisms is prose-poetry reflecting Cherokee views on modern life. Together, these two works provide a sense of the vibrancy of Cherokee culture that is far from faded, but in well worth the sampling. Edward C. Patterson (Nv-wo-di A-tsi-lv-s-gi) is the author of several cross-cultural novels, including Bobby's Trace, No Irish Need Apply and Cutting the Cheese. His recent poetry anthology, The Clandestine Closet, has been well received.
Growing cold as night,
Enfolding the empty square,
Lost to this trail of tears.
My trail of tears.
Silently in the forest
A footfall tells that they
Have crept away
Into timeís bower;
Into tearís brine,
Into the hearts of those who should know better;
Into my veins
A smoldering memory
To my campfire lit by those footfalls in the quiet wood
So many miles from home.
Searing still in my heart stream,
But long since set aside.
Singing now a hollow song,
Telling of chicks new born,
And loves and fears heroes know,
Now smolder in the distant plains,
Burning with the forever-flint
With no bird to recall it to life,
Except the dust crow who waits by my dying laughter
To mock me in my death.
Searing still in my heart stream,
Never to be set side.
City of the Cherokee
City of the Cherokee
Swept in autumnís gold.
Alive with commerce old.
This great world was never-ending,
As we were jealous not to barter for our souls.
This great earth, at our cityís heart.
Autumnís gold covered ruddy loam;
Now, the curing loam of my sweet city
Cries out to the U-ne-gas.
Come and take hold,
And take heart and pity,
For gone is our gold
In U-ne-gasí cotton city.
Ghosts in the mountains
Near the Loverís Leap.
How we wed the sky with our singing.
How we drank the corn wine with laughter.
Now the U-ne-gas say:
We drink the sun no more.
We make our wine with dust,
Dense as our mountain haunt;
The mountains we now haunt.
Harvest dances are shadows on U-ne-gasí walls,
Mocking our laughter, our corn-wine prayers,
Mocking the Tsa-la-gi in their keep.
Mocking even the Loverís Leap.
The Children Laugh Playing Poleball
The children laugh
Playing pole ball in the plaza;
They fire life in the great city.
Wewoka found a bear claw.
Cosawta caught a starling.
But sewing and hunting ends.
Games the worldly play.
Claws and starlings fire the sun
Spilling new laughter on the plaza.
Everyone plays at pole ball
In every stitch and shot.
We Sent our Best
We sent our best to fight
On the floor of U-ne-gasí court.
We are the children of the sky
And the day was passing fair.
But our best failed.
Not with the garbled lawless;
But with the great white warrior,
Who eats our children
Spilling blood to the U-ne-gas god
Who does not fear the sun.
So much blood upon the U-ne-gasí court.
and from Diary of Medicine Flower -
I have always been exposed to great things ó great books, music, performances and the arts. They have unfolded about me like the leaves of the agaves or the wings of the monarch. It is probably a just thing that I should lose the sight of one eye and scarcely feel the earth beneath my feet. Just as I have inhaled the beauty of Austen, Tolkien and Dickens, beheld the fire called the Sistine, watched with awe the power of old Egyptian love sealed forever in an ancient tomb, and have slumbered on the waves Mozartian. I have seen Gui-lin in the mist of her wet mornings, where the cinnamon trees burst fondly over the plum pudding hills vying with cabbage aromas. I have supped too long, indulged too many times for any human to dispute the parity of loss. Now, I pick up my armor, shielding the sun, deflecting its rays to my own response; my own mark indelible ó for one cannot mourn the loss of such things as sight and touch, when one has recorded all things in the soul. It is time to thank the creator for what I have, and join the great for others to imbibe. The days are getting short for me, but the best is yet to come.
Into the Sunlight
Lifting the shield, the heavy shield that brings us daily to burdens and sorrows, we might forget that the meaning of life is unclear, even to the wisest. While squirrels harbor nuts and lemurs perch high over our past, we worry about things not essential to daily breath and contact. Struggle as we may, the refinements of even having a burden is the essence of happiness to those who have nothing at all. So, lifting the shield in the sunlight should be a joy, like waking daily and taking our first steps. What we hoe, we hoe without reason, because the meaning of life is still unclear, even to the wisest.
The Featherís too Light
Rise up and take that step today ó not tomorrow. Although tomorrow will not be too late, it will be late enough. Tailor your gait to the sunlight, the shadows gaining on you, if you tarry in one spot too long. Move out and up. Then, up and over. Mobility is a gift while you have it. If you wait too long, youíll watch others move along leaving you to bemoan in the dust your lost opportunity. Fire coaxes to action, but coaxing is not the end of it. Action is the end of it. Dead ends are self-inflicted hesitations, each one a brick in an insoluble wall. So, delay not for the feather to land. It falls too slowly for lasting success; too softly for permanent impact.
Start with a Day and be Thankful for it
Look around in the morning and note the light on your windowsill. Is it crisp like winterís welcome? Does it dance like summerís promise? Does it tell you of foreboding, like autumnís echoing warning; or does it have springís rebirth? The reality of the morning light is that you can behold it and be thankful for it. It is the best thing seen, this ability to open the eyes each day after day and start each day fresh and new. There will be a day skipped, somewhere on the horizon, and beyond that, who knows. So, I swing my feet over the bedís edge and smile at the sunlight on my windowsill. It assures me another two-dozen hours of life; or least the chance for it.
We Cherokee stand in the rain and feel the kiss of heaven running to our lips. It is said that if we keep still and taste the Great Fathers tears, we will know when the fire will return and warm us to our daysí end. Simple gifts from the great oneís heart are always accepted and tasted in silence. To say more would spoil the moment and make us less than we really are, make us more than the surrounding woodland.