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March 2, 2021
Lois Red Elk offers a pair of poems about the promise and struggle end of winter brings
A Yellowstone bison hunkers down in a snowstorm. Even with the green abundance coming, striving to reach the end of winter can push wildlife to its limits. Photo by Jacob W. Frank/NPS
EDITOR'S NOTE: From the Rockies to the high plains, these last weeks of winter can be a time of brutal endurance. Warm, thawing days can quickly be erased by late season blizzards, pushing wildlife survivors to the very brink of exhausting their energy stores. The past year has also been a challenging one for elders vulnerable and alone in Indian Country. As she also does with remarkable grace, poet Lois Red Elk invokes metaphors to describe how, with spring fecundity nearly in sight, these weeks of March are ones of remembrance and perseverance. The first poem Leaving Waniyetu is brand new and will be featured in a forthcoming volume of new poems while Silent Life Letting Go appears in Dragonfly Weather, Lost Horse Press, 2013. When covid times end, we hope to host a reading of Red Elk's new volume in Bozeman. We look forward to it with pleasure. —Mountain Journal
by Lois Red Elk
Here now, a presence walking away from
winter, absorbed low sun learning, carried
over for later listening, celebrating, musing.
My deer fetus bag is near empty, stained with
dainty dried berries. These old bones worked
hard for that cold day pudding. I arrive with
storm clouds, must protect aged winter skin
from biting wind moon, thirsty for angle of
shaded sun, lower shadows declined. I ready
self for a deep dream, reliving tales of star
stepping adventures, the last of this season, a
grateful soul journey. The changing moon is
altering senses, sharpening hearing for sounds
of thawing river, earth releasing buds, clearing
winter eyes of glaring sun off melting snow.
Spent tongues from storytelling remind me to
reach for sacred dialect, thanking earth spirit,
prayers for growing energy. The birds that
stayed and the home bound crickets sang old
songs of childhood, healing time of circling
the sun. Now feel the children getting restless,
leaving toys, for open doors, sliding away
from elders, reaching for a new sun, pushing
time while earth too hurries to leave Waniyetu.
© Lois Red Elk Waniyetu - Winter
Silent Life Letting Go
Frozen creek beds shift,
little by little
ice and snow
lives to become
for the beginning
reach of hair like wood
under the trunk
of glowing tree buds.
Clouds off the river,
a steam, like breath
for sun releasing
mud into frogs.
after winter sleep
exhaling old breath..
Sun warming air
for geese reaching
for flight and
Silent life letting go,
for the arc
of a new sun.
© Lois Red Elk