To begin ...

As the twentieth century fades out
the nineteenth begins
it is as if nothing happened
though those who lived it thought
that everything was happening
enough to name a world for & a time
to hold it in your hand
unlimited.......the last delusion
like the perfect mask of death

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Frances Densmore: American Indian Songs (Part Two)

Translations selected by Kenneth Rexroth


Buffalo Dance Song

He said, Unreal the buffalo is standing.
These are his sayings.
Unreal the buffalo is standing,
Unreal he stands in the open space.
Unreal he is standing.

Spring Song

Spring is opening.
I can smell the different perfumes
Of the white weeds used in the dance.

Dream Song

Beloved, it is good,
He is saying quietly,
The thunder, it is good.

Ghost Dance Song

The yellow star has noticed me.
Furthermore, it gave me
A standing yellow feather,
That yellow star.


Dream Song

In the heavens
A noise,
Like the rustling of the trees.

Love Song

I will keep on Courting
Until morning.


Steam Lodge Song of the Sun Dance Ceremony

A voice,
I will send.
Hear me!
The land
All over,
A voice
I am sending!
Hear me!
I will live!

War Song

A wolf
I considered myself.
But I have eaten nothing,
From standing
I am tired out.
A wolf
I considered myself
But The owls
Are hooting,
I fear the night.

Song on Applying War Paint

At the center of the earth
I stand,
Behold me!
At the wind center
I stand,
Behold me!
A root of medicine
Therefore I stand,
At the wind center
I stand.

Song after Battle

The old men say
The earth only
You spoke truly,
You are right.

Song after Battle

As the young men went by
I was looking for him.
It surprises me anew
That he has gone.
It is something
To which I cannot be reconciled.
Owls hoot at me.
Owls hoot at me.
That is what I hear
In my life.
Wolves howl at me.
Wolves howl at me.
That is what I hear
In my life.


Downy white feathers
Are moving beneath
The sunset
And along the edge of the world.

The morning star is up.
I cross the mountains
Into the light of the sea.

A white mountain is far at the west.
It stands beautiful.
It has brilliant white arches of light
Bending down towards the earth.

Healing Song

The sun is rising.
At either side a bow is lying.
Beside the bows are lion babies.
The sky is pink.
That is all.

The moon is setting.
At either side are bamboos for arrow making.
Beside the bamboos are wildcat babies.
They walk uncertainly.
That is all.

The sun is slowly departing.
It is slower in its setting.
lack bats will be swooping
When the sun is gone.
That is all.

The spirit children are beneath.
They are moving back and forth.
They roll in play
Among tufts of white eagle down.
That is all.

In the great night my heart will go out.
Toward me the darkness comes rattling.
In the great night my heart will go out.

Song of an Old Woman in the Cold

No talking, no talking.
The snow is falling.
And the wind seems to be blowing backward.

Song for the Puberty Rite of a Girl Named Cowaka

A poor man takes the songs in his hand
And drops them near the place where the sun sets.
See, Cowaka, run to them and take them in your hand,
And place them under the sunset.


The water bug is drawing
The shadows of the evening
Toward him on the water.


In Cocori is a young girl
Whose name is Hesucita.
She is a pretty girl.
Her eyes look like stars.
Her pretty eyes are like stars moving.


The owl was requested
To do as much as he knew how.
He only hooted and told of the morning star.
And hooted again and told of the dawn.


The bush Is sitting
Under a tree And singing.


The deer
Looks at a flower.

[Kenneth Rexroth’s introduction to Densmore’s translations of American Indian song-poems appeared earlier on Poems & Poetics, and the first part of his selection from her work was posted on November 9, 2009.]

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