Charlie True

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 Charlie left behind many unpublished poems, going back over 50 years.