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When The Meadowlark Sings Oiyokipi Omaka Teca

For Lois Red Elk and other prairie dwellers, springtime means 'Take joy, the world is made anew'

Lois Red Elk writes from the high plains, "Wow, people were so surprised  to get a late spring snow storm. 
But that is hi-line weather, unpredictable.  I wasn't so surprised as I was praying for more moisture for our earth in this region."

The "Hi-line" area of Montana is the far northern tier of the state where the Great Northern Railroad built a track in the late 19th century connecting cities in the Midwest, such as Minneapolis-St. Paul and Chicago, with emerging towns on the coast, like Seattle. In turn, the line was used to deliver beef and grain products to distant markets.

The incursion of the railroad brought the end of bison, waves of dryland farmers and cattle grazers. From her home at Fort Peck, Red Elk confronts many common geographic reference points that connote very different things depending on who is interpreting them. 

As a tribute to spring, MoJo's poet in residence delivers two works—a brand new one and another favorite timed to the season. The new poem is called Maga Agli Win which in Dakota means "Moon When Geese Return." Observes Lois, "My mother and aunties had this unique relationship with the weather.  They referred to wind, rain, storms, etc, as relatives and paid close attention to what the elements were saying and always remembered to be thankful."

Red Elk's second poem is called Glad You're Back and appears in her critically-acclaimed book Why I Return to Makoce, 2015 (Many Voices Press).  "It speaks to a conversation I tried to have with a storm," she says.  Enjoy.  —MoJo editors
In Dakota/Lakota, the emergence of  "hokshicekpa" (the wild crocus) is a good harbinger.  Photo courtesy Wikimedia user Tigerente
In Dakota/Lakota, the emergence of "hokshicekpa" (the wild crocus) is a good harbinger. Photo courtesy Wikimedia user Tigerente
Maga Agli Win

I am looking at fog coming from Mni Sose,
Grandfathers breath we name it, ancient as
earth and new as inhaling for a recovering
moment.  I know earth is speaking change
when sun and ice bring vision.  This morning,
after prayers I stop and listen for the familiar 
language of maga winging from the South.  I
want to feel the flow of bodies over my house,
a blessing of good news of Spring and tales 
from the South. Aunties words remind my 
ear to hear, then to utter the language in Lakota, 
“Maga Agli Win,” moon when geese return.  
Entering my kitchen I look for the words from
the First Scout, the calendar he put together 
so we never forget. Wetu, Spring, signaled
the earth to awake Hokshicekpa, the crocus,
the flower that tells its life story in the way 
it blooms, resembling a baby’s navel then
finally ends the summer with gray hair.  This 
past week I was out on the hills to help sing 
its arrival.  For one of the bands of my tribe, 
Wetu, marks the beginning of a new period,
the new year, when the meadowlark sings, 
Oiyokipi Omaka Teca, “Take joy, the world
is made anew.  This space of time will end
next weekend after the new moon then the 
next month starts.  My heart takes joy as I
honor my teachings, my movement through
the universe with my Grandmother Earth.

©Lois Red Elk

Mni Sose – Turbid Water, (Missouri River)
Maga – Geese
Maga Agli Win - Geese Returning Moon
Wetu – Spring
Hokshicekpa – Baby navel  (Crocus)
Oiyokipi Omaka Teca – Take joy the world
is made anew
A spring prairie thunderstorm. Photo courtesy Wikimedia user MichaelKirsh
A spring prairie thunderstorm. Photo courtesy Wikimedia user MichaelKirsh
Glad You’re Back

Glad you’re back.  I’ve missed you.  
It’s been a whole year
since I’ve heard your voice 
so strong, a stable force in air
a baritone humming, vibrating the wind. 
Yes, I’m glad you brought your friends.  
I acknowledge the way they 
swept in calling attention 
to their grand forces and subtle 
movement across the grass.  
Yes, I’m enjoying the conversation, 
the easy way you roll your “L’s” 
and how you encourage all your 
guardians to join in the 
heavy down beat,
the drum, songs 
and strong statements.  
What was that you said?   Did I enjoy 
the gathering of low dark clouds?
tinted edges of rain drops?  
Yes, they spoke first
on my brow, splatters on the walk,
on my window then 
sprinkled dainty drops 
on my chokecherry.  
The honeysuckle was surprised,
opened so quickly after the first taste
We were all startled 
at the burst of pink buds opening
exploding among the thirsty leaves.  
Yes, I heard the thunder 
of hoof beats, that followed 
shortly after your arrival, 
their nostrils flaring
and exhaling shots of wind.
And yes, the gentle explosion 
of the smaller thunderbirds 
glad they came up from behind.
I look forward to more visits, more talk.
Yes, I am grateful for all you bring.  
I will always salute 
the returning of the thunders.

                       ©Lois Red Elk
Lois Red Elk-Reed
About Lois Red Elk-Reed

Lois Red Elk-Reed is a poet who calls the high plains home. She is Mountain Journal's poet in residence.
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