In January, 1968, I took an R&R from 85th Evac Hospital, Qui Nhon, took a train from Tokyo to Zao to ski. Kimonos and Futonjis in room. Flying back into Tan Sanh Nhut, Tet had begun, worlds in chaos. Round the clock months-long continual evacuations, young North Vietnamese under B52 bombs wrapped in gauze. I’ll ski White Pass today, eat cookies at High Camp with my notebook, and read some poems. A powder day.
When the long walking began
I just can’t say. In the unborn
belonging and the stupidity of the heart
coming to play in matters of faith,
winter faith matters, seeding itself.
Looking back through two notebooks
and shreds of evidence, tabulating
places, rest stops and mileage.
It’s snowing and workers
are putting up forms, sheet rocking
in snow. The street, snow-filled,
rutted and icy, but better for one’s feet,
because the unevenness of snow
works one’s body into its own
flexibility, and hiking boots
keep one’s ankles steady.
Nineteen years ago I left the classroom
carrying a notebook and a camera.
That’s what I thought about
as tears flowed. Still 58,
days before my birthday,
the same age as Charles Dickens
when he died. Some times
half page a day, sometimes
baking cookies in the kitchen,
scraps of recipes come from my head.
The twisted tree lives its life
while the right tree
ends up in planks
is what the Chinese say.
Another day walking
and after-walking in the notebook,
a blessingway walk, what I say
half-believing. So many
Walks of privilege, walks of shame.
El Camino in Spain, Camino de Santiago.
Wonderland trail around Tahoma,
Pasayton Boundary Trail with that added
cut straight south another 15 miles.
The Long Walk of the Navajo.
Trail of Tears of the Cherokee.
Bruce Trail in Canada
Inca Trail in Peru
and Bright Angel Trail
into the beginning of time,
hands on the Vishnu Schist.
Two years walking the housing development
The decades of Tent City.
Poets walking the 19th Century.
Wordsworth and Coleridge in the Alps.
John Keats walking North into Scotland.
44 days and a shipride home.
The Trail of Tears cuts through eight states.
South Appalachia. Population
90% reduced from Smallpox.
A constitution and a written alphabet.
The Indian Removal Act of 1829,
Andrew Jackson ignores the Supreme Court.
Homeless in their own country.
Signed the treaty in 1835 opposed by 90%
of their own people. 6000 troops enter their territory
and the roundup begins in gold fever dreams.
Prison camps and river banks.
16,000 Cherokee captives.
The March begins in winter, 1839, in drought,
managing their own removal,
wagons carrying the sick.
A National Historical Trail, this
Trail of Tears, in 1987.
Now with a website,
a National Park Service Film.
From the Diné:
Long Walk of the Navajo.
Tséyi’—Canyon de Chelly--
from Ft. Defiance, Arizona to Bosque Redondo
Fort Sumner, Nevada,
depending on one’s route,
250-450 miles, 1863-65,
10,000 Navajo marched
through the sacred mountains:
San Francisco Peaks, Mt. Taylor,
Huerfano Mountain, Gobernador Knob
and Mount Hesperus.
A discussion question:
Imagine what it would be like
to march this distance?
What helps people maintain strength in different times?
How might the Navajo stay strong?
Allowed to return in 1868.
As a result of the Long Walk,
indigenous peoples were granted
freedom of religion.
From the Tierra del Fuego to the northern
most part of Alaska, George Meegan walked 19,019 miles
in 2,425 days from 1977-1983,
making his the longest recorded walk.
And returning to what matters,
Quanah Brightman asks,
What’s underneath the land.
Beginning in the summer of 1978,
Professor Lehman L. Brightman,
President of United Native Americans,
makes the longest walk of the year
with little money or food, walking
from Reno, Nevada to the Capitol steps
in Washington D.C. to jeers,
You’ll never get out of Nevada,
while thousands cheer him on.
Supporting Indian resistance, asking,
What’s under the land?
Coal, oil, uranium, gas, water,
to save their Indian way of life.
Crazy Horse, Hoka Hey, Let’s go.
Wearing the patch for the Longest Walk.
Sacred pipe for the Four Directions,
walking that way on Turtle Island.
Walking to defeat legislation,
11 pieces had been introduced
to defeat Indian Rights.
A Blessingway Walk.
We live by an understood law.
This is how we have always lived,
confronting people who look
at a sheet of paper to know how to act.
“This is not the first time the Indian People have walked.”
We have to have people to walk.
We may be brothers after all.
We shall see.
Coffee finishing as I come
into the house after walking
short block of the neighborhood.
I glance at yesterday’s offering,
adding, Oh, I had pickles
with tuna on my saltines
yesterday. This is my life
reading psalms, all this opening
to God revealing all that is
dark within me. This God
is a quiet one. Photosynthesis
goes on. The leaves,
yes the leaves clean up
continuosly, the air,
But you will light my lamp,
Lord. You have penetrated
the darkness that I called for.
Gail is out with her little dog.
I can’t talk. We all have colds
and we’re testing for Covid.
Let us know. Let us know
how he is. As for the psalms,
they have opened for walkers
and you have given me this day.
God breaks the teeth of evil
and those who carry lies.
He’ll do it again and again,
walk on, walk with the anxieties,
work with the ancestors
carrying Torah in their bones.
Those three psalms, 3, 37, 87,
read them with coffee.
Arrows hit their mark once again,
and every step marks compassion
for the poor tucked into your headband.
All of this elevation come from skis,
the drift if unweighting, unbound memory.
25 March 2023