For those of us who delight in poetry, art, ideas, music, book sightings, photos, etc.
She spins around flower pots on her deck, arms out wide, laughter tumbling down the hill through the hemlocks to the water. Loons yodel back, Old man Sun throws diamonds over David Pond.
GREEN BAY BLUES
The blues wrap around me like ice-glaze on trees, branches vulnerable to winter’s wind. At the wild life sanctuary, looking for comfort’s thaw, I send up a high-pitched howl,
“Aowoo, aowoo, aowoo.” He must have been lonesome, too, for Brother Coyote mimics back with long, tenor dog-wails, throaty half barks and a few short yips. We keep on—antiphon of ancient cries— human howls, animal replies.
If you could see a mimosa bend its flowered branch to caress my friend, would it be too much to say that trees relate and possibly care for the human race?
If you wandered into a sacred place, came upon a mountain bent in grief, would it be too much to say stones can speak, even heal?
Michael and Kelley— my son and his wife— coach and counsel young people not ready to fly into doubtful futures, and I have lost count of all the drifting friends of her children who found safe harbor in my sister Carol’s kitchen.
for Hunter Bear, Micmac Man
The moment I saw you in that eye-popping oil painting— forty inches wide by forty-six inches tall, fiery red background framing your cowboy hat, brim drawn down, further shading sun-glassed eyes, pipe clenched in the corner of bear-jaws, denim jacket drawn open across the relaxed expanse of your white-shirted torso, elbows jutted outside the portrait’s border, open book balanced in your right hand and in the center of all this unnerving masculinity sat two cups of your favorite drink, coffee— that moment I knew I’d have to be the painting’s caretaker.
My husband’s lips tightened, face went ashen as I paid the artist—your brother—his asking price. Back home, the portrait, named Micmac Man, got relegated to our basement den
where many nights I retreated, beating my brains for understanding about why your image should hold such sway upon my soul like a Marlboro Cowboy gone amok, sniffing the spoils of an unraveling animal— easy hog-tying points. Then
I remembered your classroom style and teachings— a great oak, unperturbed by winds, always fighting for grass roots people— miners, migrants, Native Americans, Black citizens caught up in the Jackson, Mississippi lunch counter boycotts. Your family life bespoke a discipleship of which I was incapable. Thank God your detachment from academic indoctrination
led me to ancient stories of Migoum’agi— land of the Micmac— how Kesoulk made Glous’gap, who, in turn taught the People to thrive in a new creation. Faintly I began to hear the sweet notes of a flute’s song nudging me towards that same country—beckoning me to another beginning. One day I left the material comforts of my home, your portrait in tow.
For nearly a decade your image hung central in my homes from Rock Island to Washington, DC and back to Chicago. I called you a “marriage spoiler,” for in your exalted position over my couch, male visitors seemed to squirm, uneasy with my MITH—man in the house, quintessential Indian Cowboy, favorite professor,
clear-sighted justice worker— all rolled into my inner MYTH of masculine psychology.
One man—Alec Azure—wasn’t fazed. He knew you as a compassionate friend, was one of many who accompanied you on visits to Fort Madison Penitentiary’s Indian prisoners.
After we wed, he mildly suggested the dominant red of your portrait’s fine image could brighten the interior of NAES College’s fire-renovated white-drabness. Opting for domestic harmony, I donated you away to the college— hung Micmac Man high in the central stairwell
where all of us who worked there daily passed under the spell of your confident, laid-back calm.
After Alec passed to spirit—after I left the college’s employ, your portrait was removed down to the archives, where you stayed until a decade later when the time of your repatriation at last arrived.
It wasn’t easy getting you out of that place with me then living in southeastern Connecticut. My Chicago friends—mostly women—said they’d help. In the dark of night,
your portrait strangely astir, they carried you out of NAES, detached the canvass from its frame staple by rusted staple, rolled you up in bubble wrap and sent you on your way
over interstate roads from Chicago to Pocatello.
Maybe it was a multiplier effect of good medicine unleashed by a web-based tribute from your friends— students, colleagues, comrades-in-arms, family and the rest, hundreds banded together— that led to your release from that dark storage, from the near lethal grip of Systemic Lupus.
On the other hand, as you once suggested, your own Bear Medicine unrolled its Power, returned you and Micmac Man to where you belong, front and center in that place you now stand— will always stand— among family and friends, enjoying camaraderie and all those cups of early morning coffee.