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David W. Parsley

As One from the Snowfields

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David W. Parsley

AS ONE FROM THE SNOWFIELDS

 

 

Route to Navajo Mountain,

skitter of tumbleweed - land

and sky merge

like the face of Black God,

shadowy arms

canted to a common side.

 

Sounds of the ceremony

seal over distance

threading pop and hiss

of the engine with

stars ascending

paths the yeh-bi-chai took,

footfalls mute litany

along the galaxy’s ledges.

 

Small beneath the long ruin

of peaks

the road finds

the horizon’s shadow and follows.

Beneath those bodies

a man could walk

to the cliffs’ forgetful darkness,

that omnipotent mask.

 

A car goes by, headlights

soft probes on the highway.

Exhaust spreads

brief invisible fire in its wake.

Killdeer’s voice

starts from sleep at arroyo’s edge

and finds me from far away –

I am here! Here!

 

 

 

 

previously unpublished
© 2015 David W. Parsley
Parsley Poetry Collection

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dcmarti1

I shivered:

footfalls mute litany
along the galaxy’s ledges.

 

Just, wow. The addition of the modern car fuses past and present.

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David W. Parsley

Thanks, Marti. Your response reminds me of one given by the poet, Jon Sebba, with whom I conducted a round robin collaboration a few years back. Reviewing an earlier version of the poem, he directed the group to a gallery of the photography of Royce Bair titled, "Into the Night." One of the images he shared was the following:

 

1082089169.jpeg?width=750

 

I shivered:

footfalls mute litany
along the galaxy’s ledges.

 

Just, wow. The addition of the modern car fuses past and present.

 

Some others I find resonant with the poem:

lxram.AuSt.38.jpeg

 

600_316830882.jpeg

 

1R9A4354fb_3SistersMilkyWay_1600px.jpg

 

Thank you, sir!

- Dave

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Benjamin

A superb journey with so much for the reader to consider. ( Looking at your first picture:-) It could almost be from a birth canal of awareness into the vastness we call creation... Much enjoyed. G.

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badger11

 

yeh-bi-chai

 

hi Dave,

Is that referencing this?

 

http://navajopeople.org/blog/yei-bi-chei-night-chant-first-day/

 

I wasn't sure what arroyo’s edge meant.

 

I wanted to read 'A Killdeer’s voice....'

 

This poem intrigued me, but I was flummoxed by some of the expressions...canted to a common side. Like the sound of that.

 

all the best

 

Phil

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David W. Parsley

Hi Phil, thanks very much for the comments. I never know how much to include, how much to leave for the interested reader. And I don't always know what things are common knowledge among geographically separated readers. I'll try to address your comments in order, in separate replies.

 

 

 

yeh-bi-chai

 

hi Dave,

Is that referencing this?

 

http://navajopeople.org/blog/yei-bi-chei-night-chant-first-day/

 

.......

 

all the best

 

Phil

 

 

Yes, the yeibichei (the 'proper' spelling changes every time I turn my head) are ceremonial dancers in Navajo culture. Your link is a decent introduction to the topic, though it appears to address one specific set of ceremonies. As indicated there, the costumed dancers represent supernatural figures, yei (pronounced like a cross between yeh and yay) in the Navajo language, such as Talking God, Black God, and others from among the Holy People. This dance has been known to Western explorers, settlers, anthropologists, ethnomusicologists, and others, for over a century. It's practice is sustained throughout the massive territory belonging to Navajo Tribal Lands in New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah. Yet the tradition continues to be little known and even shrouded in mystery. A few pics:

 

Harman%2B-%2BYei%2BBi%2BChai%2B550.jpg

 

Yeibichai-1024x768.jpg

 

Their appearance here is part of the Otherness that has startled the narrator into a refreshed awareness of the richness of the universe and how we as human beings apprehend it. It is also a tacit acknowledgment that, as Shakespeare's Horatio would have it, "There are more things in Heaven and in Earth than is dreamt of in your philosophy."

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David W. Parsley
hi Dave,

 

 

I wasn't sure what arroyo’s edge meant.

 

...

 

all the best

 

Phil

 

 

According to Webster's Dictionary, an arroyo is a steep-sided gully cut by running water in an arid or semiarid region. Having camped and hiked extensively in the American Southwest, I can tell you in practice that an arroyo can be anything from a gully, to a ravine, to something almost resembling a canyon (though this latter case is unusual.) It is usually dry for most of the year, but is subject to flash flooding and people get caught in those floods every year, so there is some hazard to their exploration. A few pics should help:

 

arroyo.jpg

 

8477095259_db83f2dd0e_z.jpg

 

021001_doubleneg_cjt_081.jpg

 

Sometimes arroyo walls are found to be decorated with petroglyphs or similar art from ancient native peoples.

 

- Dave

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David W. Parsley

 

 

yeh-bi-chai

 

hi Dave,

 

I wanted to read 'A Killdeer’s voice....'

 

 

all the best

 

Phil

 

 

The killdeer is a bird named for its peculiar call which seems to be saying, "Kill dee-er, kill-deer," accent on the word, deer, both times. It is quite haunting and difficult to locate, especially when heard coming out of the night. By omitting "A..." at the beginning, it ambiguates the bird's identification to potentially be an animal spirit or guide, perhaps a kachina.

 

I can't resist the temptation to add a comment on this poem by the poet Lynn Benson: "As with the road above, I like the way you give the Killdeer's voice intent, so that the voice "finds" you. ... Validation of the living, while yet remembering the spirits of those passed on--the Killdeer speaking for all creatures/inhabitants of the world!"

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David W. Parsley

 

 

yeh-bi-chai

 

hi Dave,

 

This poem intrigued me, but I was flummoxed by some of the expressions...canted to a common side. Like the sound of that.

 

all the best

Phil

In traditional Navajo artwork, human and quasi-human figures are often shown with both arms on one side of the body:

 

il_fullxfull.749643102_ovdw.jpg

So the description may be a metaphysical (and visual?) stretch, but the idea was that the indistinct merge of land and sky seemed to occur in a face like one of those above, with the landscape stretching away like the arms. (I had trouble finding a representation of Black God on-line, but I have seen this yei represented in Navajo rugs, pottery, and sand paintings.)

 

- Dave

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David W. Parsley

A superb journey with so much for the reader to consider. ( Looking at your first picture:-) It could almost be from a birth canal of awareness into the vastness we call creation... Much enjoyed. G.

 

Hi Geoff, yes, this is definitely a show-not-tell poem. For good or ill, I have found that it speaks most eloquently to those who have visited the southwest USA (esp. in the Grand Circle area or in tribal lands.) But the reader's space to "consider" is paramount to how this poem is intended to work, allowing he/she to touch that Otherness and vastness to which you allude with such insight.

 

Thanks,

- Dave

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dedalus

I love the atmosphere you have created in this piece, and I particularly like the ending: I am here! Here!

I feel I should say more about this piece as a short comment like the above seems almost flippant or disrespectful, considering the obvious length of time you have put into it. Nothing could be further from the truth as this one absolutely rocks (no pun intended) ... very well done indeed, Sir!

 

Best regards, Bren


Drown your sorrows in drink, by all means, but the real sorrows can swim

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badger11

Thanks Dave. The context has definitely enriched the reading. Perhaps at the arroyo’s edge could be an option?

 

all the best

 

Phil

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David W. Parsley

Thanks, Phil. I will mull your suggestion!

Thanks Dave. The context has definitely enriched the reading. Perhaps at the arroyo’s edge could be an option?

 

all the best

 

Phil

Best, too!

- Dave

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David W. Parsley

Hi Bren, thank for the eloquent expression of resonance - the resonance of a poet. Your response beautifully puts the lie to my grumbling observation that folks would have had to visit the place to appreciate the piece. This is a case when it is a privilege to be wrong!

I love the atmosphere you have created in this piece, and I particularly like the ending: I am here! Here!

I feel I should say more about this piece as a short comment like the above seems almost flippant or disrespectful, considering the obvious length of time you have put into it. Nothing could be further from the truth as this one absolutely rocks (no pun intended) ... very well done indeed, Sir!

 

Best regards, Bren

Thanks my Friend,

- Dave

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Tinker

Hi Dave, I enjoyed returning to this beautiful country through your poem. A poet friend of mine, Barbara Hartman was a teacher on a Navajo Reservation for many years and her poetry often speaks from the culture of the People and sometimes the land although I don't know how one separates the two. There is a spirit present there and this poem attempts to give us a glimpse of that. I've visited New Mexico and driven through this vast and beautiful land but your poem most reminded me of a trek I took outside of Sedona Arizona where I was told is the strongest Vortex of the World. I remember standing on the cliff with small group of friends, all women, taken there by a Shaman who led us in a spiritual experience. I have to admit to physically experiencing a force that has stayed with me 20 years later. It was exciting uplifting and a little spooky. "I am here, here." resonated in me.


~~Tink


~~ © ~~ Poems by Judi Van Gorder ~~

For permission to use this work you can write to Tinker1111@icloud.com

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tonyv

Dave, this poem takes me to an almost inexplicable place. Perhaps I can try to describe it using examples.


ghostpanel_webster_big%20rs%2060pc.jpg

SunTunnel_ArneErisoty900.jpg


Like the primeval Ghost Panel and the more contemporary "Sun Tunnels" "As One from the Snowfields" intersects with something far more ancient: the universe. Poem, panel, and sculpture take me "there," and it's one of my favorite places. Heaney's "In Iowa" has a similar mood and strikes me in a similar way though I think the American Southwest setting better captures the macrocosm than does the Heartland/Midwest.

Tony


Here is a link to an index of my works on this site: tonyv's Member Archive topic

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tonyv

PS: as for those Navajo drawings, I think the arms are depicted to one side of the body because the body itself is twisted; the back is to the left while the face is turned toward the user. Not sure, though.


Here is a link to an index of my works on this site: tonyv's Member Archive topic

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David W. Parsley

Tony, thanks for helping me reactivate this poem.  I wanted to say that I appreciate you pointing me to the Heaney poem.  It fascinates me.  His sense of dark epiphany is palpable as he proceeds with difficulty through a world vanishing under a broad onslaught of snow.  I followed your link the first time, but somehow missed his link to biblical events that were terrible and terrifying yet key to the salvation of an entire people.  I am left breathless by its brevity and audaciousness, sure I have not yet grasped the hem of some fleeting garment.

- Dave

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David W. Parsley

Tony,

I am humbled and gratified by this honor.  The accompanying photo is so appropriate.  It reminds me of a cliff face painted with similar petroglyphs in Utah's Capital Reef National Park, part of the Grand Circle that extends from Zion's NP out to Canyonlands NP and back to Grand Canyon NP.  Truly a mythic area!

Thank You,

- Dave

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