Jingle Dress Song for My Grandmother in This Time of Global Pandemic
For Petra Sofie Pedersen 1887 – 1937
A rattling started in my mind
as I danced in a virtual circle of women
spread from Minnesota down to Illinois.
A remembered photograph
tints you gaunt, a cloche shadowing p
vacant eyes – two surviving
girls beside you, their mouths tight
like yours, sadness shrouding light.
An immigrant at twenty-one
from Norway to Ellis Island,
you joined Grandfather Kristian.
From 1910 to 1917. Three children
died in rapid succession.
In a time of loneliness, an approaching
Great War and the Spanish flu,
you came apart – had to be sent
back to Norway.
365 jingles now sing for you,
sing for your children.
This medicine dress I wear calls
your bones to grasp some peace,
to know your grandchildren
thrive in decent contentment.
Our voices rise with these jingles
singing and praying remembrances,
praying healing. The 366th jingle
over my heart sings loudest
for all our bones
as we dance against death.
Ghazal for Spring
Another April blooms so green I long to dance.
A heaviness in my chest swells – life-long wish to dance.
I have listened to them all – teachers, therapists, and priests
give this advice: Fill your own cup or bid so-long to the dance.
Babies, degrees and causes once filled this hollow in my chest.
Were they substitutes displacing this heart-strong desire to dance?
Poet Kunitz called this yearning a need for touch.
Love completes or crucifies warned Gibran. Dance anyway.
Levertov learned to close her door to one she thought “The Eternal.”
It’s hard to shake a weight that does not want to dance.
When elders named me Walking-in-the-Rain, perhaps they knew
I could be just reasonably content, so come, let’s dance.
For Carol Hunt Bemis
These days I walk on asphalt roads,
not one to risk solitary
paths around this house,
until my sister walked with me one day.
“I hate this hard road,” she said
“Let’s go into the woods this way.”
Remember the feel of crinkly leaf cushions,
reading our smuggled comic books,
backs snuggled to tree trunks
warmed by sun, light dappled through thickets
of ocher and garnet,
vermilion against pine, lavender on russet?
“Do you come here often?” she asks,
heading into the deepening path.
Remember how years and years ago,
we raced through woods and rocky path
down to our pond—sunny, mother mud-water
catching our hot, flailing child-bodies?
Remember our diving board bellyflops,
how that big, lolling snapper kept us captive
far out on that rickety raft?
“Do you come here often?” she asks again, and I say
“No, it’s too remote, not safe, and dark.”
But on that spring day, we walked again through woods
alive with airy May apples and scattered trillium,
diving, gold-orange orioles, startled by
motor-like sounds of all the frog voices.
Alice Azure has published five books; four collections of poetry and one memoir. She studied Urban & Regional Planning at the University of Iowa, as well as Sociology, Psychology and History at Augusta College in Rock Island IL. Alice is of Mi’Kmaq descent and after years of research, a visit to Canada and alliances with Metis groups in Nova Scotia she found her homing place. She has been granted recognition of aboriginal status as an Acadian descendant in Nova Scotia by the Association des Acadiens Metis-Sourquois (salt water people), who are located in Saulnierville, Digby County, Nova Scotia.
She is a member of the St. Louis Poetry Center, and her work is widely recognized for, among other things, it’s careful, spare language and conceptual complexity. In 2015 she was recognized by the Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers.