Poem for the week after Valentine’s Day
Read at the Five Elememts Fundraiser for Indigenous Poetry and Poetics, Rhiizome, Vancouver

The five elements of becoming human

we are animals —
from Latin animalis having breath
all animals know how to love, to nestle with you,
seeking close affection, loving unconditionally, where each breath is one of love,
sensing how true your love is and if it is true
you simply be animal too, the one who breathes love

here we are those called human
yet do we know how to love?

every day the world’s heart breaks a little more
what can we do to stop this process?

to become present to the five elements of becoming human
absorbing these into every cell
toward mending every breaking heart —

1 [wood]

what would you become
standing tall palm tree-like
richly abundant as mango groves
mysterious as the whisperings of pines
all breathing in dark
all breathing out bright

as sturdy branches broadly stretch up
floating leaves as hundreds of kites
tirelessly making food from light

have you ever fallen to your knees
upon meeting the splendor of a magnificent tree?

perhaps you have found yourself in a magical forest
overwhelmed by the soft sounds trees make
of abundant life going about their day

perhaps you have found yourself alone with
a majestic baobab in a vast lonely dry plain
with her steady pace still holding true

and no matter what may befall us she is there
guiding us for thousands of years
and she is here within each of us, our inner gentle tree —

perhaps you have only recently encountered the splendor of your inner tree
and upon meeting her your heart learns to branch out openly /

2 [fire]

let us ignite your flame
alive, burning bright, dancing light
cell among cells arousing
quickly warming bodies
combusting without bias
each flame heating this fire
destructively clearing a space
to becoming human

decisive, we step up,
inflamed toward revolution,
the fire warrior awakens
brash and bright, as brave embers smolder our soul

mesmerizing in feverish and furious dance
alchemical skin a shedding
gasping thanks to emerge alive to deeply listening
of flames crackling and popping around your intuition

perhaps you have only recently woken to your inner flame
how she gently builds within you then bursting into wild fire
she melts the tight grasp of your shielded heart /

3 [earth]

do you fall to the soil of your soul
so as to rise up through the roots of your splendid tree
feeding little sprouts as you break through earth
so as to bloom into brilliance

around the curves of your rolling hills and mossy mounds
into the gentle valleys of your spacious plains
among your chubby bushes and mysterious caves
we, falling into soil, discover an abandon of joy

it is in the sweat of your soil
changing decay and rot into blossoming flower
hundreds of lives burrowing

perhaps only recently have you have felt the quake in the sweat of your soil
of the blood that tremors through you to return into earth when you are old
buried back into what was once home
and becomes home once again
loved by her ancient soul

dear mother earth
we return to her what once we were /

4 [metal]

what is our mettle
this spirited resilience
lived experience with bodies at edge
unafraid to go beyond what we know

we learn to sense when we are thinking
so thinking shimmers throughout us bodily
for we are animal, so too do we sense ideas like instinct
smelling out a possibility, leaping on a phrase,
biting into poetry to feed your soul and roar voice back into life

perhaps it is only recently you have met your resilient spirit, of this mettle,
sharp and acutely aware of language and thought

as birds who precise and wise
fly migrating through vastness that is everywhere —

dear preciousness,
thankful for having breath so bodily daringly
with a tongue that is free-falling wit, piercing the apathy of heartlessness /

5. [water]

bodily four-fifths water
we shift like a moon
with swelling oceans, river rapids, spirited brooks,
playful puddles, each day we are these

listen to feeling
the way a whale sings through her sonorous body
tender sounds among broad booms echoing
through flesh and bone and never-ending ocean
to squid and barnacles, sting rays and sea weed
so too must your whale sing out
sensing feeling across a vast expansive unknown

so how do you keep your water livable with fresh emotion
with sparkling lucidity

intent to stay clear and fresh, drinkable and drunk with your four-fifths
you train to be fit, to dive into your wild ocean
to learn of a whirling presence that never tires

perhaps it is only recently you came upon the state of your water
when tears fell as you saw the world’s breaking heart

and you attempted to mend this
by facing your own /

Draft 5b — 23 February 2013


Poem for Chief Theresa Spence

from her we learn we can hold fast
even in something fragile and vulnerable
through snow and rain
this little tent braves all
wind howling cold

and within it a courageous heart
a woman filled with calmed storm
steadfast and even
every day successively adding
another heart to her cause

preparations of a lightning strike
held rage readied by waves of young braves

in all perplexity we wonder
who would let a woman starve
in this fragile vulnerable tent
just beyond those pompous buildings on a hill
puffed up with itself in stark contrast

what fool sits on his hill
proroguing and parsimonious
seriously losing the battle of simple tenderness/

1 January, 2013
Inspired by the poem “Thinking of Theresa Spence” by Fred Wah


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