Cibola 81

This entry is part 80 of 119 in the series Cibola


The Friar’s Camp: Song Contest (cont’d)

2. White-Feather Priest

straight along the western edge of the land
I went where the great birds cry
alighting on hills of sand
on hills of sea


the sun just down
through the waves
a dark road opens
ai ah this pounding in my chest


there my guardian comes
with his white cane
there he strikes me
& drags me under


four kinds of water
he gives me to drink
a bitter brew I fly
on a bitter wind


then I hear then I hear
what the gulls are crying
then I gather


at the still
center of the land
something pounds
something threatens to break


This section draws its imagery from translations of O’odham song cycles and speeches associated with the once-annual salt pilgrimage to the Gulf of California. (I am not entirely certain who or what the spirit guardian represents.) It’s impossible to say how much of later, O’odham religious tradition echoes the priestly religion of their ancestors the Hohokam, but I imagine that basic elements of worldview have remained intact, including the notion of water as both dangerous and essential to life, and the conception of the earth as surrounded and underlain by it. This idea is too widespread in the broader Meso-American cultural region to have been derived from similar conceptions in the Hebrew Bible. And in what is now the desert southwest of the United States, such a belief system seems especially apt, given the perils of both floodwater cultivation and irrigation, which the Hohokam perfected to a degree elsewhere matched only by the desert agriculturalists of coastal Peru.

Series Navigation← Cibola 80Cibola 82 →

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.