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Joseph Bruchac

Coyote in the Belly

Caught up in another forgotten war
Coyote got swallowed up whole.
There in the dark he went wandering
hoding something hidden tucked in his belt.

Black Bear, who had been swallowed too,
came running, ready to attack him.

Coyote just held up his hands
Brother, he said, can’t you see that we
are both in the belly of this beast?
Then he pointed to the wounds in his body,
lead and steel from the scatter of I.E.Ds

And Black Bear backed off,
said Brother, you pass.

Deeper Coyote went, down into the gut
seeing what few have dared to sing about.

Grizzly Bear,  she had been swallowed, too.
She came roaring, jaws gaped wide at him.

This time, Coyote held out his arms,
showed the needle tracks of heroin.
Dark Sister, he said, now can’t you see
what they went and did to you and me?

Grizzly Bear swayed, then nodded her head
Walk on, Little Brother, walk on, she said.

At last Coyote came to the place
where there hung the monster’s great beating heart.
All around it lay others trapped but not dead.

What are you doing? a huge voice said
that echoed off the walls of red.
Think of all I’ve done to provide for you!
Just turn around and I’ll let you go.

But this time Coyote he just smiled.
No, he said, I’m going to stay here a while.

Then he pulled from his belt for all to see
just what it was that would set them free
an obsidian blade, reflecting their faces,
their ancestors, their land, all pure as story.


Neh Tsoi

At the age of a hundred and ten
Chan Kin Viejo, Old Little Sun
Elder Prophet asked his question,
the Mayan night breathing deep around
the small Yucatan town of Naha
as we sat by his fire.

Young one, what will you dream this night?

Neh tsoi, he said, neh tsoi, it is good.
Which moved first, your feet or the dance?
And what is it that your heartbeat answers?
The throb of the tide? The drum of thunder?

Neh tsoi, neh tsoi, he said again.
Can your metal watch tell us the time
as well as the ancient cycles of Sun,
stone calendars sown by the seasons?

Young one, what will you dream this night?



In the beginning,
there was no beginning.
We knew all then
we did not know.

There was here then,
all was within
the mind of that
which was so great
that it could only
be Mystery.

Earth was not yet
made or unmade.

Story walked about
telling itsef.

Because nothing was lost,
every thing was found.

No questions could not be answers.



Despite all of
their tales of terror,
their grisly legends
and fearful dreams,
the truth is wolves do not hunt us.

Few people
have ever fallen
to the fangs
of those creatures
we see as teachers,
clan relatives
here in this land
on the Great Turtle’s back.

Why were such stories
brought here
from Europe’s shores?

Perhaps it was
because of their terror,
not of our old
gray-coated brothers
but of that cold,
uncertain time
when they all huddled
around their fires
telling tales of monsters
that could never
be fierce as the hunger
in their own minds,

a hunger my people
soon learned to fear.