Heat sings in the grass, in the fields,
in the summer moon, in the hoop of the sun.
I lift the leather of the thipi, warm in my hand.
The sweat of the hunt cools me,
and I crave the dusty body
of a woman with skin like sand,
like wet stones in a flooded river,
face turned down like the beak of a raven
and I am alive, unaware,
as she places her small hands over my eyes
and whispers, chants, dissolves.
When I became a man the raven
sang to me in my sacred dream.
It stood on my father’s grave
and in its voice I heard the wind
and every piece of every place.
I know the morning, and the night.
I know here, and there
the horizon and the earth.
The people hunt in single file,
along ridges or in tall grass.
We are the shadow of the trees
and when we rise up,
the dying animals know us
and we are not their hunters
but their equals.
When we come upon white men
we are not afraid.
We should be.
Unbroken and unawakened,
we are simply silver tokens
in decay’s cruel hands.
Already the virus encroached my blood,
doubling, and doubling, and doubling again.
In ten turns of the sun I would
return to the thipi and die,
with the night raven by my side.
After my death, as I lingered
in the half-place, the in-between, the dark coda,
I watched her purge her braid
with a sharp stone
and wrap it around
my scarred and pitted body,
sealing me in eternity,
a black serpent
swallowing its body whole.
—Holly Lyn Walrath’s poetry has appeared in Abyss & Apex, Silver Blade, and Vine Leaves, among others. She is a freelance editor and the associate director of Writespace, a nonprofit literary center in Houston, Texas. She currently resides in Seabrook, Texas. Find her online @HollyLynWalrath or www.hlwalrath.com.