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.


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.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.

More: Poems / Prayer

The latest from america

Are the Dodgers now baseball’s cursed squad?
James T. KeaneOctober 23, 2018
 Capuchin Franciscan Father Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher of the papal household, gives the homily during the Good Friday service led by Pope Francis in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican April 14. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher of the papal household, will direct the Ignatian style retreat, the U.S.C.C.B. announced Oct. 23.
Catholic News ServiceOctober 23, 2018
A Catholic literary culture that works in continuity with its rich heritage will give us a contemporary literature that both gazes unflinchingly at the messiness of our present moment and artfully works out its characters’ salvation or damnation.
Joshua HrenOctober 23, 2018
Venezuelan migrants walk across the border from Venezuela into the Brazilian city of Pacaraima. (CNS photo/Nacho Doce)
About 5,000 people leave Venezuela every day. According to the U.N. Refugee Agency, at least 1.9 million Venezuelan citizens have left the country since 2015, fleeing from the economic and political crisis that the country is experiencing under President Nicolás Maduro.
Filipe DominguesOctober 22, 2018