Per the request of the late Abenaki Elder Gali Sanchez, this poem was lovingly read at his ceremony, as his ashes were laid to rest in the Connecticut River.
Some things are clear
as the eyes of a just-caught fish.
Others dance at the edge
of our circle of seeing
as a bat at dusk.
Some things are seen from behind the eyes,
indeed, from beyond the body’s bones.
Like the vision of those who know
that standing barefoot in the soil
you may feel how trees
are drawing more than moisture from the earth
that eagles’ eyes and bears’ medicines
can be borrowed
that the wind carries ancient songs
and stones may speak
that rivers carry our past into the present
and our future is scratched in stone
that stars watch and listen
and whisper things of great urgency
that thousands of years of ancestral blood
is gathered in our own
and vision lives in it.
I believe there is a bird
(a crow I think
with a bluejay always watching)
that carries seeds of corn
and the four sacred herbs
to where the new-borns cry
their entrance song, and round them
a circle of old ones
bear the gift of seeing
when I see our people still
making sunwise circles with their feet;
listening to stones
and reverently touching trees.
Charlie True, Abenaki, was born in Newbury MA on a kitchen table, delivered by his father. His first months of life were spent living in a tent and his first memories were hearing the songs of the chickadees. He loved living on the salt water marshes of his childhood and in later life, loved living with his wife, Rhonda Besaw in the mountains of Ndakinna, the heartland of Abenaki territory. Charlie was a true renaissance man, well read and well spoken. For many years, until his passing, he was known as the “Speaker” for the Abenaki Nation of New Hampshire. Charlie left behind many unpublished poems, going back over 50 years.