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

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Gift Event, after the Kwakiutl, newly rededicated for the 44th Presidentiad, in celebration

Start by giving away different colored glass bowls.

Have everyone give everyone else a glass bowl.

Give away handkerchiefs & soap & things like that.

Give away a sack of clams & a roll of toilet paper.

Give away teddybear candies, apples, suckers & oranges.

Give away pigs & geese & chickens, or pretend to do so.

Pretend to be different things.

Have the women pretend to be crows, have the men pretend to be something else.

Talk chinese or something.

Make a narrow place at the entrance of a house & put a line at the end of it that you have to stoop under to get in.

Hang the line with all sorts of pots & pans to make a big noise.

Give away frying pans while saying things like “Here is this frying pan worth $100 & this one worth $200.”

Give everyone a new name.

Give a name to a grandchild or think of something & go & get everything.

[As originally published in Shaking the Pumpkin: Traditional Poetry of the Indian North Americas & before that in Technicians of the Sacred. Based on native accounts in “The Amiable Side of Kwakiutl Life: The Potlatch & the Play Potlatch” by Helen Codere (1956). Reprinted today toward a generosity of small things.]


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