Cibola 102

Pekwin (a.k.a. Sun Priest, Word Priest) (cont’d)

The other night in the kiva as
a few of us sat & smoked,
the daylight priest of Kechipawa reminded us
of what happened last year at the Yaaya festival.
The Helix Society had set up the fir tree
& all the townspeople were out
dancing, they’d linked arms
& formed the four concentric rings
alternately turning
in opposite directions–entrancing
spectacle for old Knife-Wing, no doubt,
peering down through his smoke hole
in the sky. Everyone’s there, from all
the six towns, dancing, when
the Helix People bring out the masks,
the Horned Ones outside
& the six Shumekuli at the center
circling the tree.

But one of the maskers has, it seems,
an improper thought.
The White Shumekuli mummer
suddenly remembers some transgression–
the night before, let’s say,
he slept with his wife. The mask
goes mad. The masker screams,
claws at his face
but it sticks tight.
He runs full tilt at the inner circle
& the circle breaks,
they try to catch him but the mask
has turned savage, roaring
like a trapped bear, smashes through
the next circle & the outer
two rings of dancers falter
& give way. The Shumekuli
who lives in the East has decided
to take his mask & go home.
Caught up in his guilt, the dancer
has forgotten who
gives life to whom: acts
like a child tagging after
an angry parent. He runs pell-mell
& the crowd dwindles.
__________

The story about the White Shumekuli mask comes from Zuni oral tradition, as presented in two separate sources.

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