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

Monday, November 9, 2009

Frances Densmore: American Indian Songs (Part One)

Translations selected by Kenneth Rexroth


Mide Songs

In form like a bird,
It appears.


The ground trembles
As I am about to enter.
My heart fails me
As I am about to enter
The spirit lodge.


The sound of flowing waters
Comes toward my home.


Now and then there will arise,
Out of the waters,
My Mide brothers,
The otters.


Beautiful as a star,
Hanging in the sky,
Is our Mide lodge.


What are you saying to me?
I am arrayed like the roses,
And beautiful as they.


The sound is fading away.
It is of five sounds.
The sound is fading away.
It is of five sounds.

Dream Song of Thunders

I go about pitying
While I am carried by the wind
Across the sky.

Dream Song

From the half
Of the sky
That which lives there
Is coming, and makes a noise.

Dream Song

The heavens
Go with me.

My Love Has Departed

A loon,
I thought it was.
But it was
My love’s
Splashing oar.

Love Song

Do not weep.
I am not going to die.

Love Song

He must be very sorrowful,
Since he so deceived
And forsook me,
During My young days.

Love Song

I will go and talk with
My sweetheart
The widow.
I love My sweetheart
The widow.

Love Song

You desire vainly
That I seek you.
The reason is,
I come
To see your younger sister.

Love Song

I am thinking,
I am thinking,
I have found
My lover!
I think it is so!

Dance Song

Strike you
Our land
With curved horns.

Death Song

The odor of death,
I discern the odor of death
In front of my body.

War Song

The noise of passing feet
On the prairie.
They are playing a game
As they come,
These men.

Song of the Butterfly

In the coming heat
Of the day
I stood there.

Begging Dance Song

Maple sugar
Is the only thing
That satisfies me.

Dream Song

As my eyes
Search the prairie,
I feel the summer in the spring.
Whenever I pause
The noise Of the village.


Dance Song

On a mountain,
The noise of the wind.


Love Song

A certain maiden
To the garden goes.
Lonely, She walks.

[Kenneth Rexroth’s introduction to Densmore’s translations of American Indian song-poems appeared earlier on Poems & Poetics, & the second part of his selection from her work will be posted later. Additional Densmore works are available as free PDF scans at]

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