5 September 2010 | Vol. 10, No. 3
Sleepwalker in the Medicine Wheel
The spine snapped in two.
Showers of sparks—burning snowflakes—then out.
His rib-punctured lung… Stop it.
No clouds, sun pouring into my face,
Sloshing the pulse with its flood of color.
The many miles gone carrying the weight
From this high place to home
Where my brother lies broken, the rain-black
Roof, slippery Sunday shoes: the story of his fall
Scribbled out, signed in stars wheeling unseen
Above these dropped stones. Tribal councils
Have decreed the long walk to this mesa—
Old rock, earth root, snow dust, stone spine
Among the Big Horns—rams off there, on watch.
Blackness in the mouth of their walking.
I have stepped in the ancestors' steps,
Walked for my brother under the hand
Of the sun to which I raise closed eyes
To ask again. I have no prayer bundle
But this bag of bones, this schooled
Skull & its clapper tongue, now still
And dumb and still they come, fire wheels
Whirling in the spoked sun, wheels of fire
Taking my brother where he must go,
Wheels within wheels spinning a cold flame,
Feather of soot each of us must hold, each dark
That shatters in that red tide. Time returns paralyzed
From before the light was born, the blood tide
Returns the sun. Tied to this chain link fence
Rattling around this mountain windblown wheel,
Prayer flags flap their wings for the far, stunted pines.
Nothing lifts. The connection gone dead,
The pulse burned out. We will never survive
That dark again, where you walked in your sleep
And I followed, saying nothing, where you spoke
In your sleep, and I answered. Buried in the heart
Of the wheel once was a buffalo skull, its sockets filled
With long grasses. Now it's blind & deaf and gone. Circling
Left, always moving with the sun, I go walking on.
About the author:
Gregory Donovan is Senior Editor of the online journal Blackbird and author of the poetry collection Calling His Children Home, winner of the Devins Award, as well as poetry, essays, and fiction published in the Kenyon Review, the Southern Review, New England Review, Chautauqua, storySouth, MiPOesias, the Southern Quarterly, and elsewhere. He teaches in the graduate creative writing program at Virginia Commonwealth University, and helped establish its study abroad programs in Scotland and in Peru.
For further reading:
See the complete list of work by Gregory Donovan at 42opus. Browse the contents of 42opus Vol. 10, No. 3, where "Sleepwalker in the Medicine Wheel" ran on September 5, 2010. List other work with these same labels: poetry.