48

– Autumn/Winter 2019

The Sleeping Ancestors

Peter D. Sipeli

Un-clothe

Take these recycled prayers

Take them in your trembling hands and push them back into the temple of your mouth

Grind these brittle verses against your teeth and feel their sharp claws press against your sacred tongue

These are not for us, these prayers are not tethered to this place

Its clawed fist shifts in cyclonic turmoil that never finds the shape of sleep

Spit it out in the sands and let the ceaseless tides take it into the blue

Drag it across knifed coral edge, stretched wide between waves

Send it back to shore with melodies sung in a wordless new song

Take off those uniforms

Unshirt your coated frame

Unlace those boots, unhook your medallions and place your awards and steel books at the teeth of the river

Bring yourself here

Your brown as true as your mothers' promise and your stride proud as your fathers’ backs that bent the winds

Those hands

The same hands planted the first seeds

The same bodies that journeyed a thousand pathways across liquid landscapes and earth pregnant with the promise of harvests

Of sons and daughters

Fluent in the language of the birds and the trees

With the ocean in us, waves crashing against our bellies

Our blood inked with stories of us and in us

And our gods etched on our fingernails and in the kiss of our smiles

Bring yourself here

*

Us

This blue ocean, its shape-shifting islands and its peninsulas sighing against the heaving belly of our sky

Earth’s harvest of sleep and its violent dreams pressing against these mountains, and plains, plateaus and sharp-toothed watery edges and heaving rivers bleeding