Gary Every’s poetry has appeared in Snowy Egret, South Carolina Review, and two poems from his collection of Ghost Dance narratives were published in Blue Mesa Review. His essays and nonfiction have appeared in High Country News and Desert Leaf. He has also published several stories combining science fiction with the histories and myths of the first post Colombian contacts. His recently published novella Inca Butterflies came from this body of work. Currently he lives and works in Arizona where he continues to pursue his interests in southwestern history and folklore.
Only an Arizonan
would think of a flat stretch of sand
as possessing an up and down stream;
a flow of soil
holding the scavenged treasures
of high tide monsoon flash floods—
rivers stones, pottery shards, and old coins.
Today, on a hot summer day,
the sandy surface of the arroyo
is dry as a bone
causing the flowers to wither,
dying slowly from thirst.
Only the trees remain,
glittering golden leafed cottonwood,
the fragile lavender flowers of desert willow,
and the deep thick sprawling roots of walnut trees.
Two black winged butterflies
land on the sand,
drinking thirstily from the hidden pieces of moisture
buried between the grains of soil.
The wind gusts,
causing the two winged lovers
to somersault through the sky
and rustling the eaves of the trees
like a gentle shaking of dreams,
sounding like a soft stream trickling across rocks.
The cooling breeze races along the ribbon of trees
creating a waterfall of leaves
while the wind whispers of wetness.
The blue leaves align in rosettes,
thorny teeth gaping thirstily
to the desert sky.
An obsidian knife plunges
from the burning summer sun
into the agave heart.
The shaman grunts
as he twists the stone blade,
his wrists stained with sticky cactus nectar.
The shaman holds the agave heart
up to the heavens
as the people cheer,
sweet fermented mescal
running down their chins.
The Hohokam terraced
entire mountain sides,
filling the hills with check dams
rows and rows of cactus plantations—
a crop which produces best
during drought years,
and it seems like every year
is a drought year
to a farmer in the desert.
The dancers join hands in a circle,
like the points of the blue cactus leaves.
The dancers twirl,
their brains swirling
from drinking fermented agave nectar,
voices rising in drunken songs of praise
to the goddess Mahuey.
When you dance,|
dance with magpie feathers in your hair.
Magpie feathers are the wings of heaven.
When the dance is done,
these wings will lift you above the earth.
When the deer, antelope, elk, and bison
return to the earth,
they will come in an avalanche
of flesh on the hoof.
Before the avalanche,
will come a wall of fire
which will burn the earth and purge it.
Then there will be a great rain,
four days and four nights,
which will put out the fire
and cleanse the earth.
The Indians who are to survive
will float on magpie feathers
way up high,
waiting for the avalanche to subside.