Yonosa House

R.T. Smith
She stroked molten tones
from the heart-carved maple dulcimer. She sat like a stately sack of bones withered within coarse skin,
rocking to com chants, snake
songs, music of passing seasons.
Her old woman's Tuscarora hair hung like waxed flax ready to spin till she wove and knotted it
to lie like ropes on her shoulders. Through my young mind she wove the myths of the race
in fevered patterns, feather colours:
Sound of snow, kiss of rock, the feel of bruised birch bark, the call of the circling hawk.
Her knotted hands showing blue rivers jerked nervously through cornbread frying, pressed fern patterns on butter pats,
brewed sassafras tea in the hearth.
They buried Y onosa in a doeskin skirt, beads and braids, but featherless.
I cut hearts in her coffin lid,
wind-slain maple like the dulcimer.
The mountain was holy enough for her. We kept our promise and raised no stone. She sank like a root to be Georgia clay. No baptist churchyard caught her bones.
I thank her hands when the maples turn, hear her chants in the thrush's song.
Page 90, Poetry Ireland Review Issue 28