Shiwanna (3) (conclusion)
The last color drains below the west
& the last jars & water baskets
have ridden home on
their owners’ heads–or
on shoulders of boys
trying desperately not to trip on
the suddenly unfamiliar streets.
At first light the gossips will make
their rounds counting sandals,
take note of the doorways near which
some luckless man’s possessions sit
neatly piled, or tied up & topped
with an elegant knot.
But for now this night, early
in the Nameless Moon, is given over
to the soft backbeat, cadence
of fear & consolation,
of tangled limbs. Muffled
fragments of glossalalia,
loveliest of songs.
The grandmother sleeping in
the next room is awoken,
turns over on her mat;
the grandfather’s steady snoring
The Priests of the Bow
keeping watch from the rooftops
hear it & smile, despite the threat.
Even the medicine priest
of the Great Shell, four walls in
from the open air, for all
his abstinence & fasting, feels it.
Allows himself a shiver,
a loving thought.
The People will continue.
the gossips: A slight exaggeration, going by ethnographies from the last hundred-plus years. Serial monogamy and female power to initiate and terminate sexual relationships are so solidly entrenched in Zuni culture that who is sleeping with whom is not even thought worthy of gossip. In neighboring pueblos, though, sleeping arrangements apparently do excite the attentions of gossips in the manner I’ve described. And given Zuni’s multicultural origins, it’s possible this was the case there, too, at one time.