If you ever find yourself on your way to a Native American sweat lodge because the spirit in you has for months been dwindling into a blatant existential sorrow, or maybe because you keep waking up with mild pain—some in your stomach and some in your chest—and your doctor doesn’t have any answers, here are a few things to keep in mind as you drive to the rez:
- The moon doesn’t know you by the name on your birth certificate.
- While you quietly undress you must empty your thoughts until your life is not even a whisper in the face of time.
- The lodge itself is a womb and so you must learn how to give birth to yourself and then everything else.
- Forget all politics.
- Jesus was a medicine man.
- Indifference can be a manner of caring on multiple levels.
- The river beyond runs into the stars.
- Don’t pray, sing.
- Thank your hosts afterwards by not wiping your face while you eat.
- At this point, you are barely a ghost.
the woman with no teeth
smiles at nothing
—Republished here with author’s permission from Senryu Circle
(2 February 2020) on Facebook
was born and raised in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and has lived for 20 years in the Grand Traverse Region. He is the author of a full-length poetry collection, Cigarette Butts and Lilacs (Modern English Tanka Press, 2008), and a chapbook, The Pie in Pieces: Thirty-three Songs from the Midwest (River Man Publishing, 2006). His poetry has appeared in journals such as Blood Lotus, Dunes Review, Eclectica, Frogpond, Red River Review, Ribbons: Tanka Society of America Journal, and Smokebox.
In 2011, his essay “The Myths of Manhood” was published in a collection of essays for National Public Radio, This I Believe: On Fatherhood (Jossey-Bass, John Wiley & Sons). His writing is also anthologized in Take Five: Best Contemporary Tanka (Modern English Tanka Press, 2009); Beyond Forgetting (Kent State University Press, 2008); Dust of Summers and A New Resonance (Red Moon Press, 2008 and 2007, respectively); Taboo Haiku (Avisson Press, 2006); and In the Arms of Words (Sherman Asher Publishing, 2005). He received the 2008 William J. Shaw Memorial Prize for Poetry, and won Honorable Mention in the Michigan Liberal Arts poetry contest in 2006.