Around the fire
Sacred mountain sage
Wafting up and into
The gathered pilgrims
Seeking a new
Connection to deeper truth –
How does one breathe it in
Without first letting go?
Coyote Skywater, the elder,
As Pueblo tradition holds,
Hands me the Talking Stick.
No one but the holder
Is allowed to speak.
She cautions all to listen, and to me –
“Even your ancestors are listening, White Owl,
So speak to them first.
Overwhelmed by silence and this sacred listening,
Searching my mind for perfect words,
My heart takes over.
Unable to speak
This Holy Stick
Sticking my tongue to my pallet
Like to a frozen flagpole,
A moan issues without beckoning
As I grasp the stick and weep.
Is it true that I have never
Been given this honor –
To be truly heard?
Surely, having been heard like this
Has taught me to listen.
Shrimp To Fry
Bayou Lafourche snakes
Toward to the Gulf of Mexico
Where shrimp boats
Motor to and from
Catch to catch.
The Miss Renee, a lugger
Pulled the nets that
Captured all manner of sea life.
My father hoisted the full net
Emptied it into the trier* box
Where the sorting began.
Eels that slithered away
Crabs that walked sideways out of the box
I picked from the live shrimp
Sardines and other small fish
And threw them over the side
Some still able to swim to safety,
Most, already dead.
Squid we kept to fry later.
A sea turtle, drowned or crushed
And once, most sadly
An infant dolphin.
Shrimpers are only interested in the shrimp,
Unless, for their supper,
In that day’s catch
Chanced to supply a flounder or soft shell crab.
I come from a long, ancestral line of
Shrimpers, oystermen and trappers,
Hard-working men and women.
What I loved was the ride,
Gliding on the water at sunrise
Returning at sunset
And the smells,
Seafood and diesel fuel in the salty, humid air.
Now I write about it.
I think I’m lazy but I have sweated
Over one illusive word
For hours, days, even years.
Still, I could not live the life
Nor they, mine.
*trier- Cajun French meaning sort, pick out, select
Sounding my oldest name
From the Canaries
To Bayou Lafourche
Bèbè de la Vega
Fragile memories forgotten but
Perhaps soul remembers
Wood pecking taps of leather shoes on
Wooden floors at the fais-dos-dos of the Isleños
He fell in love with that Cajun beauty
Eyes hidden behind gossamer veil
At the wedding of Antoine, the fur trapper.
The old wooden pew creaking as he turned
To see who sang the haunting hymn
With familiar dulcimer tones.
He recognized the sound of her.
As sure as the cotton was ready for harvest
And his labor harvesting pelts for the
Jewish buyers in New Orleans
Would take him away for three months
Into the marsh
Smelling of nutria, mink, otter, and muskrat
To court her
He was fichu. *
* Fichu- Cajun French meaning beyond hope, ruined, done for.
Bessie Senette is waiting on the birth of Cutting the Clouds: a Bayou Mystic’s Poems, Musings, and Imaginings – an autobiographical collection of poems and essays about the life and culture of her bayou upbringing and the spirituality that informs her traditional healing gifts. As an ordained minister, she officiates an ecumenical liturgy for a small congregation of like-minded and just “slightly” wacky folk who are lovingly referred to as the Bessbyterians. Bessie is a polydactyl poet, born with six toes on her left foot. Some of her friends think she should have a reality TV show but she insists that it would have to be an UnReality show. All are certain the ratings would be astronomical.