I sit at the southern position of a large circle, a council of grandmothers. They are chuckling at another love poem I have composed. I know they expect some explanation about why, at my advanced age, I still manage to get tangled up with Eros and continue to prattle about all those ancient Greek preoccupations with love—ludus (playful love), agape (selfless love), pragma (realistic love) and more? Defensively I answer, I’ve studied them most of my life! They laugh more vigorously. Ludicrous! says the woman sitting at the eastern door. A man appears, walks into the circle drumming a song, which quiets their rudeness, changes their attitude. More politely, they ask again why I persist in writing such poems. Knowing I would drown in a bog trying to answer their “Why,” I start a story about some dolls in my life:
When I was in the first grade, I had a little rubber doll who went everywhere with me. I dressed her in pretty clothes bought at the Kresege store with money from mother’s welfare check. One day the doll disappeared. Another day I saw a neighborhood girl holding my doll in her arms. Frantic and fearful at first, I quickly saw I was larger and stronger than that scrawny bully of a thief, so I ran after her and grabbed my little love, took her home to be safe with me.
Another doll was like a newborn baby, adorned with a lace nightgown and the sweetest smile, softest body. She belonged to our next-door neighbor lady. One day when I asked to play with this doll, I was told I couldn’t visit anymore. I never forgot how much I adored that forbidden doll.
Now, a lovely twenty-two-inch doll stands on a pedestal in my study. Her name is Molly Ockett, dressed in classic northeast Wabanaki style, including a pointed hood. She was given to me by a high-school friend after learning I was in mourning over the death of my long-time companion. The historical Molly had every reason to be bitter and full of hate. In the 1700’s, wars and smallpox wiped out her Pigwacket family. Yet she spent a lifetime traveling around the Androscoggin River, healing any settler who had life-threatening wounds or sicknesses. Humor was engrained in her personality for she was not above tricking friends or priests out of rum and money! Still, the townspeople had respect for this healer. Now, her presence in my study imparts a degree of affirmation about my given path—encountering love in all its forms, open to Eros’ ups and downs.
The circle of grandmothers recedes for the time being. I know they will be back, calling me to whatever cosmic business might be on their minds. Maybe I’ll be ready. Maybe not. But aside from wondering if that guy with the drum will show up again, I might even join their laughter.
After last month’s Snow Moon
emerged from her shroud of ice and sleet,
casting clear light on trees and me,
I knew it was time to travel south,
time to dispel the pain lodged in my throat,
time to untether your spirit.
I hold close your poems and rainbows,
your curiosity about our planet,
how you always hankered for far-away places.
No doubt a higher power has tempted you
to go on galactic travels the way
you boldly traversed Antarctica.
In Florida, I came face to face
with a Sand Hill Crane, who held my gaze.
A feather, please I whispered.
Next day, I came upon a scattering of tiny gray feathers,
and again, back home in Illinois,
a solitary feather lay alongside my favorite chair.
Hope dissolved the tightness in my throat –
hope that in some quotidian way
I may hold your hand again,
be more adventuresome
by your side – explore our Milky Way,
Andromeda and the rest.
photo of Alice Azure by Joseph Perna
Alice Azure’s work has recently appeared in Yellow Medicine Review, Cream City Review, About Place Journal, Dawnland Voices: An Anthology of Indigenous Writing from New England, and Against the Current. She has published five books, including the chapbook Worn Cities, which was awarded recognition in 2015 by the Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers; and the memoir, Along Came a Spider. Far from her Mi’kmaw country, she lives in the St. Louis Metropolitan Area and is a member of the St. Louis Poetry Center. Along with many other Mi’kmaw humanists, poets, lawyers, educators, artists and writers, her work is archived at Tepi’ketuek, http://mikmawarchives.ca.