With a broken-down oven, in a hotel kitchen, on an uninhabited island
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Red Hawk was the oldest man I’ve known.
He came that first time to my vision camp
by the Buffalo River.
He made a big limb fall at my feet;
He made a big dog come to my tent like a pup
and befriend me.
These are very little things, He said,
just to get the attention of a fool.
Later He made me see what I am
without lies and pretending.
This is a bigger thing, He said,
getting a fool to pay attention
Still later I saw how I am little
and live at the Mercy of something big.
That slowed me down and shut me up.
This is a big thing, He said,
filling a fool’s attention
The last time I saw Him He said,
You take this name I am wearing.
It is a big name
and you will feel its weight.
It will be a burden and demand
more than a little man can give.
This name will change you
so you walk softly with an open hand
and see a long way off.
This is a good name for a little man
And He left me
I will tell you how it is with Power.
The Way is hard
and easily lost.
Take me for example.
Once i had a tiny power
no greater than the breath of a bird,
the power to make the words.
But it was more than i could handle.
I was sloppy with it:
spoke too much
and at the wrong times;
used the poems badly
for my own glory.
So the Power was taken away.
Even the breath of a bird
made me vain and arrogant
and i used it to make myself little.
Now i sit still on my porch
and i see how
I am a stupid man
who was made sick
by the bird’s breath.
I am dying of it
because the breath got inside me
before i made myself strong
and now it is blowing me away
like a small bird without strength
caught in a high wind.
What is left for me
is to die quietly
because my stupidity made a big noise.
This is what i know