As an adult looking back, I am very aware of the conflict my white ethnicity caused for some, and how the dual worlds, or identities, I inhabited battled in my subconscious. The poem, peyote summer, isn't about any of these things directly, but as I'm telling it in the present tense somewhere between my 7 and 11 year-old self, these realities will show themselves here and there throughout the poem.
The poem is dedicated to Jesse, another white kid who shared many similar experiences growing up as I did, and kept me company on the evening of this poem.
we lay in the thick-bladed grass
of a seldom-used pasture
our backs to the ground trying
to find some cold in the dirt of this
southern Illinois mid-summer night
no cares about the many insects crawling on us
these are dirty days, inside and out…
dirty toilets and kitchens, carpets, cars, and land…
two white kids, getting brown.
we pretend the stars let us know more
about what is going on in the lodge
than we can comprehend,
our dads, uncles, and grandmother
on a secret mission
investigators, we slowly maneuver
close enough to listen, and
far enough to not be noticed
their songs make me tell a story overheard
of a peyote meeting…
those inside stopped singing as
the ancestors joined in and
continued the song
from outside the lodge…
we try to listen for them tonight
but think maybe there are too many crickets.
I want the ancestors to visit tonight,
convince myself they might just for me…
if I keep this vigil through the night
lay in the wet grass
they will look back
and sing me a song
to help the night pass faster
and to not feel like
the little white girl, anymore.
the door flap lifts,
we are beckoned inside and
the tipi looks even bigger
this night when full
than with only two praying in the day’s light…
a morning story of the half moon being built
a central alter
now mixes with smoke and voices
equal in size to the many bodies
the songs, I think, made it grow.
circling the alter
I curl up behind grandma
and fall fast asleep…
a still guardian in my dream
she touches my hand to the drum
and my lips to the pipe
each time they pass.