The Poems, Part Two

These selections are from Part Two, "Sketches,"  

                                           where you will find memorable characters,

                                          small stories, and a bit of American history.

"I was greatly affected by reading 'Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee,' which led me to discover the oral tradition in North American tribal heritage, as well as the published works of modern Native American poets such as N. Scott Momaday.  "Strawberry Moon"  honors Mr. Momaday, whose heartbreaking "Earth and I Gave You Turquoise" is exquisite.  'Poppy,' is a tribute to my grandfather, Robert Green."

                                                                            STRAWBERRY MOON

                                                  In the strawberry moon when the year was green
                                                  and soft as the plume of the calling bird,
                                                  my pride rode out in the paint of his manhood,
                                                  rode to quarry and counted coup,
                                                  in the strawberry moon, in the strawberry moon.

                                                  By fires I watched and I waited by day,
                                                  beading with hope the bridal robe,
                                                  working with turquoise and whitest shell.
                                                  Among bruised blossoms my brave one fell,
                                                  in the strawberry moon, in the strawberry moon.

                                                  Now the ice moon growls from behind sharp eyes;
                                                  the year is pale and the cold is hard.
                                                  The Earth is my mother; her breast is snow.
                                                  I climb this night at High Falling Stream
                                                  to hurl my heart to glazed stones below.

                                                  In the strawberry moon, green year come full
                                                  with blossom-fruit stains where our blood has been,
                                                  the women shall sing of the robe not worn

                                                  and of sons unborn for the promise torn
                                                  in the strawberry moon, in the strawberry moon.



                                               Grand-Poppy had a grapnel that
                                               he'd christened Mama Hook.
                                               She was his standard rigging, like
                                               my Gram's old pocketbook.
                                               He plied her in the warehouse where
                                               he wrestled for their bread--
                                               a large, fine claw that his longshoremen
                                               cronies coveted.
                                               Odd times he walked a night watch, Mama
                                               swaggered at his side;
                                               and once when he was in his cups
                                               she hitched his trolley ride.

                                               I couldn't know my Poppy well;
                                               he died when I was nine
                                               of old war hurts and cigarettes
                                               and much Sweet Adeline.
                                               But Gram's tall bedtime stories made
                                               his legend real for me;
                                               I think he monitors my prayers
                                               with gentle ribaldry--
                                               a bantum angel, Cagneyesque,
                                               quixotic in outlook,
                                               who's hanging onto heaven with
                                               the help of Mama Hook.