Kateri Tekakwitha by Raymond Filip

Your story is sacred,
As braided as sweetgrass
That cannot be unraveled.

This man of sorrow has
Lost his need for prayer.
A face in the clouds,
Or a face in a shroud,
Love elsewhere than under
The blue halo of this Earth
Is the vision of a blind dove.

Our lily-bud saint,
You saw the light in polite blackrobes
Against the roughness of buckskin.
Stones were thrown at your scalp
By your own people because you traded
The drum, the dreamcatcher, the eagle feather,
And the beauty of wampum beads for a rosary.
Smallpox also brought by missionaries
Infected your meek cheeks,
Your airy Hail Mary vision.
What did you see?
Moccasins full of sins?
What did you feel,
Kneeling in the snow,
Leaving a trail of crosses
As blaze marks on bark?
Were you so afraid of sex,
The smell of hell
In your own menstrual blood,
That you slept alone with your saviour
On a bridal bed of pine needles?
Did you taste the Lord
With wine, women, and psalms?
Can you hear these words
From the silence of your tomb?

Our spirits intertwine like roots
Of trees in the remaining woods.
I listen to the same dance of white water
That your ears once heard.
Worlds within whorls of wonder
Surge amid standing waves,
Here long before the faith keepers
Ever settled throughout the heartlands
Of Hochelaga, Kahnawake, Ahkwesahsne.
We are all part of that same ritual that sends
Canada geese circling in V formation
Above Mohawk Valley and sanctuaries.

In the stillness of winter,
I trek to your shrine and consider
The miracles in your name.

Kateri Tekakwitha:
Touch me, again.

Work included in The Penguin Treasury of Popular Canadian Poems and Songs (2002); composed the music for the award-award winning play Banana Boots by David Fennario (1995); winner of the QSPELL Poetry Prize (1994); Laureate of the Poezijos Pavasaris in Lithuania (1993) following independence; poems dramatized along with those of Nobel laureate Czeslaw Milosz in the 1989 off-Broadway production in New York entitled Etched in Amber; founder of Pluriel (1981-1986), the first bilingual reading series in Montreal sponsored by the Canada Council. Author of 5 poetry books and 1 collection of short stories. Has performed his words and music across Canada, as well as in parts of the United States and Europe.


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