Letter From The Shaman:
Up From Down, Raw From Cooked
In the beginning was the wind
and the wind was on fire. To
teach us up from down, raw
from cooked, he formed the clouds 
that brewed the rains that fell
to earth and chased all fire
up into ash and hickory, maple
and oak, where still today
it blazes through October afternoons, 
where still today, when we’re oppressed 
by night and wind, ice and age, we 
can go to bring it down again.
Letter From The Shaman:
The Dance
The first woman and man
came near one another, wary, 
wondering, sniffing, sighing.
Pines swayed. Willows. Ash. 
Their mingled breaths, the air 
between them, they called “wind.”

They danced up and back,
side to side, hips circling
like birds. They barked, whistled, 
babbled, howled, tongues twisting.
Drum and bone. Flute and wind. 
The din they called “song.”

Ever moving, they heightened 
the friction between them, 
motioning until sparks flew. 
They discovered fire. Rain came 
from them. Smoke. Mist. Steam. 
They called it “spring.” 
Letter From The Shaman:
Salt, Oil, Sweetness, Love
He made the eye salty
so grief would sting, and beauty, 
and too much mourning
make us blind,

the ear oily so bad news
and gossip, death’s rattle
and cough could go in one ear
and out the other,

the lips and tongue sweet
so we could savor the nature
of sea, field and tree, make
a feast of every word,

so we could love. 
Letter From The Shaman:
The Colors Of Pain
There’s a pain the color 
of a piece of raw flesh;
it can be drawn out
with salt, fire and smoke.

There’s a pain as blinding 
as the desert hunters cross
on their slow way home
from where there was no game.

to cure this requires one 
good prayer, eye and hand, 
one stone hurled at heaven, 
one plump bird plummeting.

For the pain white and blue
as the water churning
around a drowning man, move
the victim into fresh air.

There are pains crimson as
the sun’s rise, its fall,
pains the varying shades of night;
to cure these takes time. 
Letter From The Shaman:
Drought, Famine, Age
When the sun draws up creek, pond 
and pool because he’s grown mad 
staring at his own reflection,
old ones must teach the children
to chew grass and roots,
meat red and raw as a wound, 
songs that summon thunder,
lore of the beaver and canoe,
a fear of every kind of fire.

When the hunters and planters 
grow crazy or lame, lazy, drunk
or too stiff beside their young wives, 
old ones must teach the children
to stalk and leap, move
fast as cloud shadows across
the plains, stoop and rise
like the crow, the lore of seed
and wind, name of every grain.

When the babies are taken by drought, 
famine or age, old ones must teach
the children to groom
their long hair until it glows
like the night sky, to dance together, 
whimper and groan from bushes, 
shake the tentpoles every night,
give their hands to one another,
trace the image of woman and man. 
Letter From The Shaman:
Cures For Cynicism And Despair
If you doubt for an instant
the awful power of the law, 
pluck a wasp from the air
with your bare hand, trust
in the dollar’s worth, feast
on the juicy flesh of a pig 
cooked medium-rare, hurl 
stones and insults at police 
and then resist arrest, travel
to the country of age and swear 
“I’m only visiting, I can’t stay.”

If your world becomes too dry 
and you come to feel “Beyond
my own life nothing is,” or
you swear “When death comes 
walking slowly up the stairs
I’ll run to get my coat, go
with no regret,” then listen
to your blood thundering through 
its course summoned by a whisper’s 
roaring eloquence, the sea
in the ear’s conch, a lover. 
Letter From The Shaman:
The Calling
At sixteen I grew too sleepy to move.
I’d lie alone for days praising
the beauty of nothing, until in the sky
high above the nighthawk, owl and pine I’d
see things. I found my voice, my tongue,

learned to bark, sing, wriggle, fly.

When I’d been alone in the forest
three weeks, I learned the frail language 
of wood, moss, dove. After four weeks 
without women or food, my penis, belly 
and heart taught me the drum. Now

I can cadence you through the dance

of rites, seasons of loving and birth.
I’ll frighten leanness from your cattle
and babies, march your girl and boy
into woman and man, seed into tasseled corn. 
I’ll find your hunters lost in snow, your souls.

You’ve a hurt? There’s a root, an herb, a word.
Letter From The Shaman:
He Orders You To Listen
Listen. The birds
and dogs. Pine and ash. 
Your penis, hair, nails. 
All are speaking to you.

Listen. Winds bear
souls. Initiations. 
Expirations. Gales
of death-breaths.

Listen. Every star’s
a tall tale. Look up.
Every pebble’s a sharp truth. 
Go barefoot. Listen. 
Letter From The Shaman:
Dying Just Once, Loving Every Other
The last dream means a room, 
brightest you’ve ever seen,
where long-time lovers simmer 
with a passion time can’t cool,

where no one falters, where 
there’s no ache, though 
everybody’s touching, no one 
dying just once, every lover

loving every other.
Letter From The Shaman:
Mourning
Let the businessman rend his suit, 
cancel all appointments, hurl 
paperweights and bills of lading
to the floor, pound his metal desk, 
scatter ashes on his head.

Let young women and men
who move together (even as I write) 
come apart, keep hands to themselves, 
walk out into snowy woods
shapeless in coarse cloth, alone.

Let the mother withdraw her breast 
from the baby’s lips,
migrating birds fall from the sky
to walk earth aimlessly.
May nothing leap, run or speak,

for at this instant, someone 
we’ve never known, much less 
loved, clutches chest or side, 
falls all the way to ice or flame, 
or starts from sleep, and waking,

dies. 
Letter From The Shaman:
Rites To Prepare Yourself For Death
Try to hatch a boiled egg 
or weave your shroud from just two threads 
or break the wind and mend it.

Try to distinguish wind 
from seed, spore and leaf, dark from night, 
mourner from lament.

Try, with your final love, 
at the instant pleasure transfigures your face
and makes you more than you are,

to tie a knot in your last 
stream of semen. As darkness falls, wish hard
for clay and peace, say

“If I only had the time.”