Sunday, January 26, 2014

Two Poems by Nadine Waltman-Harmon

The Wolf's Trail

"Come home. Come home to the Cookson Hills,"
Mother's old Cherokee friend wrote. "I will show you where
Sumacs redden and pokeberries ripen purple-black within
Shadows of the great oaks."

There was never time for things we wanted to do. Instead, we
Sat in mixed company on straight-backed wooden chairs
Talking about mundane matters, catching up on years of
Living between visits.

"What's the name of that man you married?" Golda asked,
Acting like my mother who had already gone ahead to sit
Beside the Wolf's Trail, waiting for her old friend, Golda.

Golda never waited for my answer. She wanted to walk the long,
Dusty road to the mailbox. While the persimmon-red
Oklahoma sun bled into dust, scorching my feet, Golda kept at me.

Words, like arrows, pierced my conscience.
"Next time you come home . . . take me to town.
I want you to buy me new clothes." Promises were made going down
Dusty road and back; solemn promises never meant to be broken;
Promises impossible to keep.

Ninety-two, as supple as the slender branches of the
Wahoo tree growing in her front yard.
"They were everywhere when I was young," she said.
"Now it's the only one around here."

She squatted before her old bookcase,
Searching for The Advocate so I could catch up on all the
Happenings in The Nation since I'd been away. Finding one
She jumped to her feet, a young girl again.

I wanted Golda to be 'Spirit' in a diaphanous gown of mist to
Rise above the Cookson Hills, soar high to Sky and disappear like
Eagle, but ninety-two winters made her host to the great worm and
She went to sit with the Ancient Ones beside The Wolf's Trail.

Through the boughs of Ponderosas surrounding me
Comes my mother's voice, joining that of her old Cherokee friend, Golda.
They call with the wind.
"When are you coming home?" they ask.
"Come soon. We'll show you where to find good
Huckleberries on the slopes and where sumac reddens and
Purple-black pokeberries grow within shadows of the great oaks."

 An Old Man's Tale

                       (How the Amharas come to power 
                                            f rom one Oromo's Point of View)

Eh-Hey! Come, old man, tell our story
While fiery young men sneak away
To begin their own history by moon's light.
"There . . . at the foot of those mountains, stretched from horizon to horizoon
Are the ripe teff fields where the Oromo gathered to harvest by daylight
And, when the sun died, our fathers rested, laughed, and told of our beginnings.
Eh-Hey! There were rolling hills above deep valleys of lush grasses
Sweetened with clover where all the Tolesas and Kumsas pushed cattle
While fathers slept or argued on ledges above.
There . . . from the hilltop at sundown the father of Tolesas
Shouted to the father of Kumsa.
Eh-Hey! "My son has returned to our tukul and here is the black cow
with two white feet.This is the cow of Beyecha.
Come, Beyecha, cross our mountain.
Come, drink tala with me. Come, sleep near my tukul.
Come, Beyecha, we respect your cow.
We respect all that belongs to Beyecha."
Then, too soon, the Amhara came . . .
Too soon Teshale came
Many Amharas came to the valley of the Oromo.
Locusts attack wheat fields.
Thieves butcher fat cattle. So Teshale came . . .
The Amhara . . . Teshale came
As bees linger over red blossoms
And bridegrooms take possession
The Amharas, too, spoke softly and made promises.
Teshale's fingertips came to Bedaso's lips
Teshale's lips suckled the nipple of Bedaso
The bee enters the flower . . . and a honeycomb for the Amhara begins.
Eh-Hey! Empty-handed Teshale came
Fingers to lips . . . lips to nipple . . . Teshale is family now.
Eh-Hey! Bedaso, you are my father. I need fields to harvest.
I need cattle to herd. Even now I have lain on the ground
With your daughter. A father must give to his son.
Eh-Hey! Beyecha is restless. Winter rains beat through the tukul's roof
Where Beyecha lies sleepless, thinking of the Amharas.
Will Teshale's voice thunder across the mountains when the grass is tall and sweet
And foolish boys mix cattle?
Will Teshale return the restless black cow with the two white feet?
Can the bee replace the honey it steals from the flower?
Can the bridegroom make woman a virgin again?
--------------------------------------------------teff--grain, tukul----house, tala-----beer

Nadine Waltman-Harmon is a retired teacher (42 years) who grew up in northeastern Oklahoma.  In the l960's she taught African teachers in Tanzania, East Africa Nadine lives in a log house in the  Pacific Northwest with her cat, Mama Chai.

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