Praise

The boy named Wolf bursts from the kiva
into a blaze of sun; men’s ankle shells rattle.
The boys’ kirtles are white as gardenias,
their hair tangled with eagle feathers.
At each boy’s throat, a shell of Bull’s Eye Malachite.

Oh they are young and beautiful.

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On cue Cochiti boys raise arms tied with pine branches,
chanting, keeping time to drums’ pounding beat.

Wolf does not know what the words mean.
He knows the ancestors are close, he knows holy,
knows the dance ends when sun turns the plaza magenta.

The translation of words is in their bodies
as they move in the language of rivers.

I once knew the exuberance of youth who keep ritual,
whose bodies speak what words cannot.
I was nineteen; we sang psalms in Latin.
Three hundred of us beneath stained glass windows
that floated rainbow colors on the white scapulars
of our Dominican habits. Matins, Lauds, Vespers,
we never knew we were singing the songs of prophets,
of lovers, of a God who accompanied the wretched.

We knew only to sing in perfect A flat.
We knew Gregorian chant inflections.
We kissed the floor if we disturbed the chant.
We ate our dinner on the floor if we dropped kneelers.
We kept the great silence, kept custody of the eyes.
Confessed our faults on our knees.

We never knew why.

We understood ourselves as belonging to promises
that asked everything of us. Century after century of praise.

On cue Cochiti boys raise arms tied with pine branches,/
chanting, keeping time to drums’ pounding beat.

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