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The Carver

ISSUE:  Winter 1977
At Six Nations the Grand River thins
to a string of blue beads. By noon
a few cars wait for the ferry
to slide them back to town.

In the hot beer haze, beside the bowed landing house,
an old Ford springs chickweed and two glazed men
sit asleep in the rear seat.

This spring after a brief rain
flowering gentian and lupine,
Jacob Sky brings his son into the woods.
He is looking for a young larch
the width of his grandfather’s face.
He finds one opening leaves and begins
singing a family song, how a woman
loses her teeth and must have her daughter
first chew her meat. The boy laughs
and turns toward his father carving
the split eyes and hooked nose out from the trunk.
By night the mouth will move.
Tomorrow they will return and cut the tree
leaving it to dry so water and air will empty back
into the body of the sky.
In those hours the corner of the mouth will part,
the nose bend and the eyes spread so full
a young finch flies through, barely brushing his wings.

They carry the mask between them on a birch branch
whistling the windy melody of the river.
When they reach home the youngest girl
puts up her corn dolls and disappears behind the house.
Twelve horsetails hang in the late sun.
She chooses one sheared from her pony’s winter coat
and tacks the hair so it falls evenly
on either side of the mask’s face.
Her mother brings a bowl of mashed berries
for the children to rub into lips and cheeks
raising a true color.
Then they hoist the mask onto a pole
facing the Iroquois sun, and it is made again,
done for this season,
surely as the wind lends words for the mask to sing.


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