Paul E. Nelson

 

Paul E Nelson

 

(USA)

 

 

 

Death of an Indian (Birth of a Shaker)

 

November 1881

to the Great Spirit Chief

Squ-sacht-un

had been a bad Indian.

 

Drinking & hard-living had left

his body weak

& open to evil spirits.

 

A Squaxin (Sahewamish) logger

worked hard/drank hard

was said to’ve broke his neck

& five

Indian Doctors w/ scallop-shell rattles

& feathersuits &   in

 

can

 

tay

 

shuns

 

five Indian Doctors w/

 

a healing song from Duncan (perhaps)

a vowel-laden Full Moon canto howl’d

into November Skookum Bay

 

(Hammersly Inlet)

 

air

no use.

 

The bottle’d won.

 

Broke his neck.

 

Left his body at Skookum

and his soul –

 

Maybe in a

clam basket

the Giant Ogress keeps,

maybe in a canoe

headed to sea, maybe

Coyote knows…

 

clocheclocheclocheclocheclocheclocheclochecloche

 

Whe-Bul-eht-sah (Mary Thompson to settlers)

bedside &

(niece) Nancy George

in the corner

bit of red suspender

wrapped around Squ-sacht-un’s

(John Slocum’s)

head.

Only weeping now,

send two men off to Olympia

for the finest pine.

 

Tell the cousins

Squ-sacht-un

was no more.

 

Tell the Uncles

drinking won

Squ-sacht-un’s neck

 

lost.

 

See the robins make the snowberry branches

bob.

 

Hear wind kiss

November evergreens.

 

Hold this moment in time.

Let grief well up

from the

large intestine & slow

take  over  the neck &

 

all  skin.

 

Squ-sacht-un.

 

clocheclocheclocheclocheclocheclocheclochecloche

 

His last breath

left him.

Soul lifted

 

by bright light upwards

met by a procession

angelic.

 

Meanwhile

somewhere beyond the veil

somewhere

 

under obsolete constellations near a

silver river

 

where no demarcation between tendons

and star stuff

comet tails

 

& entrails

 

embutido y

nebulae

 

Squ-sacht-un  had  some  explaining

to  do.

 

Past a picket fenced yard

stands a house.

Door open

house empty ‘cept for what he knew as

 

a presence.

 

Another door open

a well-dressed man asks:

 

Do you believe in God?

 

(This is no trick question.) One cd end this way

spin the meat wheel again again climb

back on   start over

again, carne roulette

I coulda been better

agonies again

I coulda

been free of ligaments and tendencies to change myself

into a shape that’s less than spirit

THIS

 

all Squ-sacht-un was now.    Skin without

a boat.

Meat about to climb back on

the wheel.

It ain’t home

but somewhere close.

 

I hear Charles Lloyd play

Migration of the Spirit

& Salish singers

w/ similar songs

cued up to wail

beside pine but

NO.

 

There is another door

& on the wall a large photograph

of that bad Indian

Squ-sacht-un

drinking

fucking

puking in snow.

Glass crash

fist fight

every   bad   act

of his 40 years

whiskey

tincture of Jamaica ginger

gambling

reenacted

wicked technicolor

for him to chew on

for a few long moments

of purgatory.

 

Down

down

down

 

some furnace in the basement

bodies of drinking

buddies

 

cracking in the fire

ashes to ashes, tendons to

stardust.

 

Start again

wicked Indian

you need this skin boat

no more.

 

(Who’d not want to haggle

right about now? What would you do

 

if all the lovers of all your years

passed by at midnight

dressed in the flesh

they wore when you

last loved them?)

 

Denial turns to dealing &

this offer comes straight from

the angels (or God)

a spirit great and benevolent.

 

Some    luminous    divinity

capable of showing

Squ-sacht-un

his wicked Indian

fornicatin’

ways

 

to offer mercy

mercy

mercy.

 

Offer sobriety

&

upright morality, take

the white robe

candles & bells.

 

This is a bell-ring.

 

Take  II.

 

Death of An Indian (Birth of a Shaker)

 

clocheclocheclocheclocheclocheclocheclochecloche

 

Led to a room upstairs

& then the roof

the view

an ancestral homeland

all coast

a giant glaciated breast

& game

& clams

& kingfish

stick games and songs.

Enough cedar for

80 armadas, enough

huckleberries for

mountains of pie.

 

Enough

 

Which way is heaven now

Siab?

 

This is not blackness.

Only black plasma &

imagination

just behind the curtain.

 

Back at a grief-struck  bedside

sisters weeping,  Nancy

sees

Squ-sacht-un’s toe move.

 

Mary Thompson says stop looking at the body!

 

Next a hand twitch

then his head,

then

 

Squ-sacht-un delivered from evil

sits up

regains consciousness

 

his broken neck

healed,

his need

 

WATER

(but not from the vessel that

“belonged to the Sin.”

WATER

Weak, he won’t go back to

his old bed.

A white robe

for a new morality and mission.

 

CONFESS  he urged

(make all right)

lest the burning furnace,

lest yr spot in heaven be

denied

&

then build a church.

Forget the coffin now

just around the riverbend.

 

Heaven gave him eloquence/ability

to hear voices:

 

You shall live on earth four weeks. (Get busy.)

 

Bells.

Candles.

Crosses.

Flags.

Albs.

Holy

pictures

 

would festoon churches from

Squamish

to Yurok.

From Chemainus

to Tolowa

Nanaimo to Nez Perce

Quileute to

Umatilla

 

Hoh

to Cowlitz &

Siletz & Klamath

 

to Muckleshoot & Snoqualmie

Quinalt & Skokomish

to Tulalip &

Musqueam.

 

Songish   Colville

Cowichan  Swinomish

Hoopa  Chehalis

Squaxin   Lummi

Upper Skagit

Wasco

Warm Springs

Nooksack

Makah

Clallam

Yakama

.

 

Cascadia, gets its own religion.

 

Squ-sacht-un  had a body

w/o a soul

 

had a light

 

like  a  sun

trying his soul

had

four weeks

&

one    last   chance.

 

clocheclocheclocheclocheclocheclocheclochecloche

 

A year later

Squ-sacht-un

sick again

& remember Mary?

(Whe-Bul-eht-sah) bedside Mary?

 

Mary got the shakes.

Not from drinking, no. Not

from not drinking, no.

 

This shaking a healing shake a fit.

 

As in the Spirit Canoe Ceremony

Waterman wd talk abt.

 

Power enters poles drummed on roof boards

or planks conducting like lightning rods

or Whe-Bul-eht-sah, Dear Sweet Mary

here to shake the daylight back into

Squ-sacht-un (John Slocum).

 

Shaking (noetic illumination) Shaking

(direct experience of divinity) Shaking. Shake that bell.

Carry that rhythm. Loan yr throat out

to the all too silent antepasados.

Shaking (widdershins) Stomping

smoke-free and sober.

 

Why’d this

scare the shit out the White Man?

Settler prehension one

regulation at a time.

Punishable by torture

or slaughter.

 

 

Notice to the Shakers: You are hereby permitted to hold meetings… under the following conditions: on Sundays not longer than three (3) hours at one time and on Wednesdays not longer than two (2) hours at one time. The following REGULATIONS to be observed: 1st, Keep windows or a door open during all meetings. 2nd, Use only one bell to give signals. Not continuous ringing. 3rd, Do not admit school children at night meetings.

 

7:25P – 1.21.12

Whitley Center

SJI

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

____________________________________________

 

Paul E Nelson – poet/interviewer

To what do you train your attention?

Paul E. Nelson founded the Cascadia Poetry Festival which embraces Washington, Oregon, Northern California and British Columbia. He has served as President of the Washington State Poetry Association.

Over 26 years, Paul E Nelson has interviewed poetic luminaries such as Allen Ginsberg, Michael McClure, Anne Waldman, Robin Blaser, Sam Hamill, Wanda Coleman, Eileen Myles, Jerome Rothenberg, Sam Hamill and George Bowering. As host of a whole-systems public affairs radio interview program, he also interviewed authors and activists who understand the shift from a mechanistic ethos to one of process, partnership and interconnection.

Now, you can hear some of  his visionary interviews online, find resources for Organic Poetry , or book a workshop with Paul and bring him to your community. His workshops are transformative experiences for writers of all skill levels.

About Paul’s most recent collection of poetry, A Time Before Slaughter (Apprentice House, Oct ’09), Michael McClure said: “Here’s one more big hunk of the American shoulder, as Olson carved his from the North East, Nelson takes his from the Pacific North West. It’s beautiful time-space in new words.

*  *  *

Paul has written a 17 syllable sentence every day since the first day of 2001. Read more about the form he uses at American Sentences.

***

Paul has produced over 500 hours of interviews.

See http://paulenelson.com/americanprophets/

 

 

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