Insomnia and the Seven Steps to Grace

At dawn the panther of the heavens peers over the edge of the world.
She hears the stars gossip with the sun, sees the moon washing her lean
darkness with water electrified by prayers. All over the world there are those
who can’t sleep, those who never awaken.
 
My granddaughter sleeps on the breast of her mother with milk on
her mouth. A fly contemplates the sweetness of lactose.
 
Her father is wrapped in the blanket of nightmares. For safety he
approaches the red hills near Thoreau. They recognize him and sing for
him.
 
Her mother has business in the house of chaos. She is a prophet dis-
guised as a young mother who is looking for a job. She appears at the
door of my dreams and we put the house back together.
 
Panther watches as human and animal souls are lifted to the heavens by
rain clouds to partake of songs of beautiful thunder.
 
Others are led by deer and antelope in the wistful hours to the vil-
lages of their ancestors. There they eat cornmeal cooked with berries
that stain their lips with purple while the tree of life flickers in the sun.
 
It’s October, though the season before dawn is always winter. On the
city streets of this desert town lit by chemical yellow travelers
search for home.
 
Some have been drinking and intimate with strangers. Others are
escapees from the night shift, sip lukewarm coffee, shift gears to the
other side of darkness.
 
One woman stops at a red light, turns over a worn tape to the last
chorus of a whispery blues. She has decided to live another day.
 
The stars take notice, as do the half-asleep flowers, prickly pear and
chinaberry tree who drink exhaust into their roots, into the earth.
 
She guns the light to home where her children are asleep and may
never know she ever left. That their fate took a turn in the land of
nightmares toward the sun may be untouchable knowledge.
 
It is a sweet sound.
 
The panther relative yawns and puts her head between her paws.
She dreams of the house of panthers and the seven steps to grace.
Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Joan Maiers
4 years 2 months ago
Bravo to the author! Was this poem read at the February AWP conference in Seattle? Portland is eager to welcomeJoy Harjo for another reading in the Rose City

Advertisement

Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

An official wedding photo of Britain's Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, center, in Windsor Castle, Windsor, England. Others in photo from left, back row, Jasper Dyer, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, Prince Charles, Doria Ragland, Prince William; center row, Brian Mulroney, Prince Philip, Queen Elizabeth II, Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, Princess Charlotte, Prince George, Rylan Litt, John Mulroney; front row, Ivy Mulroney, Florence van Cutsem, Zalie Warren, Remi Litt. (Alexi Lubomirski/Kensington Palace via AP)
A poll found that 66 percent of the British public declared they were not interested in the Windsor wedding.
David StewartMay 23, 2018
God simply is a triad of love: a going out in love, a return in love and thus, ever more, love itself.
Terrance KleinMay 23, 2018
The leaders sent a letter to President Donald Trump, administration officials and members of Congress.
Altar servers lead a Palm Sunday procession March 25 in Youtong, in China's Hebei province. (CNS photo/Damir Sagolj, Reuters)
The pope appeared to be alluding to the fact that since February there has been a crackdown by the Chinese authorities on religion in the mainland.
Gerard O’ConnellMay 23, 2018