NHT's Writing Desk

columbia river gorge and crown point
The Columbia River Gorge divides OR from WA state          credit: 1859 Oregon Magazine


The Dream of Shonone*

I see his face, my soul mate’s face,
thin and sallow,
dark eyes ringed with death grey haloes.
The sickness is winning.
The holy man is coming.
No-one understands.

I cannot watch this happen again.
I have medicine to stop this sickness.
It is in the writings: anyone has the power.
I think I am the only one who knows that.
I think I am as afraid as anyone. 

And what of Little One?
He is too young to be motherless again

An anger erupts without warning.

He is also too young to die,
as surely he will,
from this wretched disease!

My fighting soul mate groans,
weakly sparring hallucinated demons.
Cool water warms quickly against his burning brow.
He does not notice.
His distressed moans draw breath,
insistent, persistent,
dying. 

Inside my brain,
intention ripples then explodes
the wellspring of my being:
There is still time to save him!
There is still time to save them both! 

Precise and swift as a warrior’s arrow,
one thought pierces consciousness
and blasts through involuntary vocal chords:
”I cannot watch them both die!” 

Emotion mutinies reason.
I am running,
(I know just where),
gliding through bushes,
over fallen trees,
carried by moccasined feet,
racing reason’s recovery,
destination pre-determined.

“Sh’no-nee!”
Little One’s voice echoes through the silence of the forest.
“Sh’no-o-neee!!”

The heightened pitch of desperation’s sound
in my own name
tells me that,
as usual,
he knows
how I’m thinking,
what I’m doing,
where I’m going.

I am so sorry, Little One. I know no other way.

The edge abruptly clean
is now behind,
then high above me,
a ribbon river snaking far below.
Falling is stillness,
motionless,
soundless,
broken only by one last soul-emptying wail:

“SH’NO-O-NEEE-E-E!!!

Sorrow binds both our hearts together for all time.
(Far below me now)
he’s watched the deed from atop the cliff
and, dropping to his knees,
collapses in a wash of grief. 

His medicine will be clear and strong enough for many.
 

Epilogue:

For centuries on end,
tradition pointed to a native maiden’s silhouette
revealed by a veil of mist swirling
‘round a waterfall spectacular
cascading from a purely rock-faced ledge.
The story is this maiden leapt to save her people,
and that a rush of water gushed forth right behind her:
evidence to a fall of selfless heroism.
The legend does not tell
of her brother,
of his sacrifice,
or of his gift.

Then in the nearing of the new millennium,
one late summer holiday weekend,
from the waterfall’s sheer rock backdrop,
a bus-sized boulder tumbled loose,
disfiguring forever the mystical visage,
in testament to the legend’s final statement:

Earth honours Truth.

NHT
©1998, 2017





*author's note: : this poem came from a vision I had while driving 70 m.p.h.
making a run from one end to the other of the Columbia River Gorge. 
My young children were in the back of the van.
According to landmarks t
his vision lasted for five miles.  
I’m not sure who drove during this time period - there was no vehicle in this vision. 
When the vision ended, my cheeks were wet with tears, and my oldest was asking,
“Mama, why are you crying?” 
The full impact of this experience unfolded over a passage of years, and its wisdom guided others 
through a horrific car accident, meningitis, and ultimately brain surgery.
When the final piece of the vision’s mystery fell into place, it provided need of the epilogue…
This poem exists because sometimes visions translate lousy into prose.

5/1/17 5/1/17 - ed. note to 'the dream of shonone' -  
against many odds and born on opposite coasts, Little One and i actually made our way
into each other's life this time through the religion class i taught -
motherless this time too, he and my children made fast friends, and he asked often to stay with us;
one night he awoke screaming the terrors reserved for wandering children - 
'i saw you die!' he accused me, angry, breathless, his eyes full of terror and betrayal
that quickly ebbed into sorrow when he begged me to know:   
'why did you jump?'
i didn't answer him - i didn't know how to answer him -
i make it a point not to discuss visions and such with children ... 
he knew nothing of the story this poem tells 




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