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When Iktomi The Trickster And Original Spider Man Comes A Calling

Lois Red Elk writes a poem about how an ancient spirit pays a visit when we are most vulnerable

Hello MoJo Readers,

Our dear friend, Lois Red Elk, Mountain Journal's poet in residence, is convalescing. She sent along a note to say she misses having contact with all of you—the thousands who have become readers of both her poetry and reflections on the sentient natural world.  Let us all wish her well.

As she rallies in Wolf Point, out on the prairie and near the big river, Lois also sends greetings and a brand new poem. Titled "Not Eight Eyes,"  it will appear in her new forthcoming volume, in a section of works that pertains to Lakota/Dakota cultural legends and life stories. This one builds upon the Lakota legend of a trickster—not coyote but shape-shifting Iktomi who sometimes tries to make himself feel better by bringing others down.

"Not Eight Eyes" is about a haunting visit,  a dreamlike encounter. Sentience is something modern America only recently has begun to consider as an essential, indivisible part of beingness. For Red Elk, moving through the world without paying attention to the inter-relationships of everything on Earth is like not acknowledging that we breathe in air. Sentience is ever-present, it connects us, flows through us and fills the perceived spaces between.

In this poem, what is the poet saying—what is her allusion to Inktomi telling us?

We are thinking about you, Lois Red Elk. We're grateful for all you bring to MoJo.

Not Eight Eyes

By Lois Red Elk

You know you shouldn’t - but the glass jar 
will work for now - you have to keep track of 
possible thunder - observe closely - without 
being struck or bitten - you have to move your 
body slowly - one shadow at a time - your eyes 
watch cloud positions - directly above - not off 
to the left or right of the targeted - but directly 
inches above the circle - you have imagined -
around what you want - but respectfully fear -
taking control - of your heavy breathing - the 
unsteady beat - deep in your chest - so as not to 
exhale too loudly - so as not to start the revealing 
tremble - that will begin the vibration - of the luring 
thin lines that you know will surely alert - scaring
all gullible into a frenzy - of doubt - or a clamor -
of hurried pace - you know this one has ancient 
connections - that will be used against you - to bring 
doubt - to your hands - now is your chance - to slowly 
lower the glaring glass - over the one you secretly 
dread – detest - deny - the one you want to control -
it will be victory - over that tricky one - who deceived
early humans- with a curiosity - a constant unusual 
prying - into a new life - above the dark below - into 
the earthly web - but just as you aim – to lower the 
trap - just as you think it will all be over - the hairy 
head turns - it is not what you could ever imagine -
not eight eyes - but a human face - just like yours -
looking - pleading that he not be captured - eyes 
that speak so sad - that you drop the glass - it wasn’t 
the fright - the display - it was the sudden realization 
that your common culture - is a mirror– reflecting -
aged - vulnerable - deceptions - the little trickster
instantly spins - off  the table edge - into this webbed 
life – the life you yearned for - leaving you defeated – 
barely able - to accept the learning.

©Lois Red Elk

: We are pleased that Lois is working away on a new collection of poems and will let you know when it is published. In the meantime, ask for her other volumes at your favorite local bookseller: Our Blood Remembers, winner of the best non-fiction award from Woodcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers; Dragonfly Weather; and Why I Return to Makoce with a foreword from Montana's recent state poet laureate Lowell Jaeger and nominated for a High Plains Book Award in poetry.  Given headlines that continue to appear about the discoveries of new atrocities committed at boarding schools for indigenous children, we encourage you to read Lois' contribution to MoJo that appeared last June, The Unspeakable Past Of Indian Boarding Schools 

Make sure you never miss a Lois Red Elk poem by signing up for Mountain Journal's free weekly newsletter. Click here: 

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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