Atsimoihkan: Poems 1 & 2

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By Leo John Bird

Atsimoihkan means prayer and is often talked about in terms of apaitapiisin, way of life. For me prayer has been something in my life that I have always felt sure about. Some of my first memories revolve around my immersion school class learning our prayers in our language. To this day when I pray, I hear my little kid voice in my head saying them with me. This collection of poems reflects my journey with prayer this past quarter and my realizations about spirituality and traditionalism. I ordered the poetry so that the reader understands my voice and it begins like a Piikanii prayer would by naming all of the entities that we are asking help from. After calling on the spirits, I try to name the specific issues and negativities that are plaguing my body and use that space to talk candidly about my experiences at home and while studying at Stanford. Finally, I provide three poems that talk a lot about death, which is juxtaposed from a traditional prayer, which asks for long life and survival. This course asked me to think about my own death and after visiting Standing Rock I started to believe that death wasn’t too far from me and that I needed to better respect my mortality. I also experienced a couple of deaths in my family this quarter and wanted to write something that called my grandpa and my cousin into my works where the reader questions whether or not I will see them again even though I know it to be so. There is no word for goodbye in my language so I tried to end on a note that would take me full circle and talk about death as a crucial part of life.

1.

My Voice is
Two-spirits
Forever dancing
To drum beats.

Silent prayers
Flying on Piitohsoowatsis
To different worlds,

My voice is
Church choirs
Turned into
Fierce showers

Followed by
White-out blizzards
Ending in
Indian Summers
And ceremony.

My voice is
Evening stars
Forever running to
And away from
Kookoomiikiisoom.

Chinook winds
Melting snow
Off Iinii beards

My voice is
Ainskiiakii
Ki Ksiksikaamiiohkitopii
Ki Natoyiikskinaan
Ki Otohkoipiiksiiakii
Ki Sa’amahkoina.

My voice is
Dreams
On Apanii wings
On a journey
Around the galaxy.

2.

Mountaintops
She lives there
on the backbone
of the world.

She berry picks
with her three kids
Sarvis.

They are laughing
and painting their
faces purple.

Grizzly decides they
are too close to her
Cubs.

She stands on her legs
shouting warnings
and singing her kill
song.

She puts her body
In front of Grizzly
Praying that they
Will make it.

Creator pities the
scene and they are
frozen.

They are still there
near the top of the mountain.
You just have to know
what to look for.