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As One from the Snowfields


David W. Parsley
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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previously unpublished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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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:

See the source image

 

On 5/31/2015 at 5:08 PM, dcmarti1 said:

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:

See the source image

Imgur: The magic of the Internet

 

600_316830882.jpeg

http://photos1.meetupstatic.com/photos/event/7/8/a/2/600_316830882.jpeg

 

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-WBXY6a5poDs/UtSnOcJo6mI/AAAAAAAAG1Q/52FGEambOHU/s1600/1R9A4354fb_3SistersMilkyWay_1600px.jpg

 

Thank you, sir!

- Dave

image.png

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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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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.

 

On 6/8/2015 at 11:41 AM, badger11 said:

 

Quote

 

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:

image.png

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-aChpIuYeSeQ/VAPUaIBja6I/AAAAAAAAU44/Xuy7U9JxYgU/s1600/Harman%2B-%2BYei%2BBi%2BChai%2B550.jpg

 

image.png

Jim Abeita : Yeibichai (firstpeople.us)

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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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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  • 2 weeks later...
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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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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  • 5 weeks later...

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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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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  • 4 months later...

I connect to your love and appreciation of such a beautiful and mysterious place you describe traveling through.

 The desert land "is" magical. I also feel a strong connection the the Southwest beauty here in Bullhead City, as l stand near Spirit Mountain, laden with Mojave Indian petroglyphs inscribed in it's Grapevine Canyon area.

But l could feel the spiritual elements of the Southwest Indian land in your beautiful poem.

I loved your poem.

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I wrote the below before I remembered that detailed critiques are not expected in this section. I'm sorry, but since others have also raised some fine points here, I'll leave this as it stands for you to pick from as desired.

As others, I thoroughly enjoyed this piece. While some of the allusions were unfamiliar, even before reading your explanations, I found myself focused with determination on the atmosphere you unfold through descriptions, narrative, and evocative language. You transmit a definite "vibration" that transcends the particulars.

Quote

 

Sounds of the ceremony

seal over distance

 

This phrase confused me momentarily and had me visualizing the mammal seal, but eventually I got the sense that you were trying to say that the sounds figuratively closed the distance, making it irrelevant. At this point, I grew to really like the phrase. 

Quote

 

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.

 

Actually, this whole passage is incredibly complex with dense abstractions, but to my gratification, it almost all hung together to my satisfaction upon close inspection in terms of actual meaning. Of course, threading a sound (pop and hiss) with objects (stars) is definitely stretching the figurative imagination, but I can do that, and am willing to! It fits in well with the other types of boundary-blurring in the poem. The one thing that really threw me in this passage was "footfalls mute litany..." What litany are you referring to and how is it muted? Further, is this phrase meant as an independent clause? Following the comma in the line above, it comes off as a complete predicate (making a stretch and interpreting "footfalls" as a verb), but after much analysis, I concluded that it actually must be intended as an independent clause. If so, then why not use a semicolon instead of a comma at the end of the preceding line to avoid such confusion? I understand that you're deliberately being restrained with your punctuation in this poem, and I can flow with something like the lack of a comma at the end of the second line here (which would be imperative if these lines were written as prose), but the comma in lieu of a semicolon at the end of the sixth line, if I get your intended meaning correctly, just creates confusion.

I love the way you refer to the "peaks" as "bodies"--the possible interpretation of this as a form of personification is appropriate to the subject--and I'm also a fan of these anthropomorphic phrases:

Quote

 

the road finds

the horizon’s shadow and follows.

 

Quote

 

the cliffs’ forgetful darkness,

that omnipotent mask.

 

Also, "omnipotent mask" is a perfect descriptor for a cliff in darkness! Here,

Quote

 

A car goes by, headlights

soft probes on the highway.

 

I feel it would be more powerful to use a verbal rather than adjectival modifier--something like

 

A car goes by--headlights

Probe softly on the highway.

 

I do like the oxymoron of the "soft probe," though--it works!

Overall, I was won by the sense of atmosphere created by the evocative imagery; the short, desert-spare lines; and the boundary-blurring of past and present, magical and mundane. As others, I was struck by the killdeer's call at the end. 

 

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Can't believe I somehow missed this heady atmospheric piece... Good God, this is simply brilliant - It evokes and invokes the startling scene vividly -- the entire 'ordinary' magic of it, indeed sends shivers.

 

Juris

thegateless.org Come on over and check out my poetry substack y'all;-) Or if your bored, head to the Zazzle store: https://www.zazzle.com/store/gateless. If you buy anything I lose a bet, so consider that before you violate the digital rules.

 

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