River Ritual

Written by: Rhea Daniel Dear

examine the mouth of the river
listen to its excited conversations
compare its  shimmering to
ululating silver bangles

walk into the riverbed and cover
yourself in golden sediments
mud bathe- then rinse in the river
spread your wings like a butterfly

glare at the sun stinging
your heart out with its
until Old Black Face One arrives

humming Swami River
banging his pots as
if they were talking drums
his spoons delivering messages

whip-poor-wills will wail
broadcasting their name 
the fattest red breasted  robin will
whistle (her chest heaving)

twigs woven in your hair
feet shoed in muddy leaves
pain pierces your left leg/ 
SCREAM but do not run

Grab the snake - throw him 
bash his head with a rock
your knees bloody as you struggle
The light is leaving

an owl hoots and spirits emerge  
The Hollering Woman
grabs you, releases the poison 
with a green beaded knife

moccasins worn softly
hold untold stories
the sounds of the rattles, bells
announce the herbalist healers

lace, calico and purple 
turkey and peacock feathers
swooning scents intoxicate-
power away the pus

study the ancient ones
revere messages from your river
remember the ancestors' rituals
go to the river and dance