John Updike (1926-2009)
Seven Stanzas at Easter (1960)
Make no mistake: if He rose at all
it was as His body;
if the cells’ dissolution did not reverse, the molecules
reknit, the amino acids rekindle,
the Church will fall.
It was not as the flowers,
each soft Spring recurrent;
it was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled
eyes of the eleven apostles;
it was as His flesh: ours.
The same hinged thumbs and toes,
the same valved heart
that – pierced – died, withered, paused, and then
regathered out of enduring Might
new strength to enclose.
Let us not mock God with metaphor,
analogy, sidestepping, transcendence:
making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the
faded credulity of earlier ages:
let us walk through the door.
The stone is rolled back, not papier-mâché,
not a stone in a story,
but the vast rock of materiality that in the slow,
grinding of time will eclipse for each of us
the wide light of day.
And if we will have an angel at the tomb,
make it a real angel,
weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair,
opaque in the dawn light, robed in real linen
spun on a definite loom.
Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
for our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are
embarrassed by the miracle,
and crushed by remonstrance.
Gwendolyn Brooks (1917-2000)
And if sun comes
How shall we greet him?
Shall we not dread him,
Shall we not fear him
After so lengthy a
Session with shade?
Though we have wept for him,
Though we have prayed
All through the night-years—
What if we wake one shimmering morning to
Hear the fierce hammering
Of his firm knuckles
Hard on the door?
Shall we not shudder?—
Shall we not flee
Into the shelter, the dear thick shelter
Of the familiar
Sweet is it, sweet is it
To sleep in the coolness
Of snug unawareness.
The dark hangs heavily
Over the eyes.
. . .
Y si el sol viene,
¿cómo debemos saludarle?
Deberíamos temer a él,
Deberíamos amilanarse por él,
después de una sesión larga con la sombra?
Aunque hemos llorado por él,
Aunque hemos rezar
Durante los años de noche
– ¿Qué pasará si nos despertamos en una mañana reluciente para
Oír el martilleo feroz
De sus nudillos firmes,
Fuerte en la puerta?
Hacia el querido albergue grueso
Que es la niebla conocida y propicia?
Qué dulzura – cómo es dulce –
Dormir en el fresco
De un desconocimiento cómodo.
La oscuridad cuelga pesadamente
Sobre los ojos.
. . . . .
Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894)
The embers of the day are red
Beyond the murky hill.
The kitchen smokes; the bed
In the darkling house is spread:
The great sky darkens overhead,
And the great woods are shrill.
So far I have been led,
Lord, by Thy will:
So far I have followed, Lord, and wondered still.
The breeze from the embalmed land
Blows sudden towards the shore,
And claps my cottage door.
I hear the signal, Lord – I understand.
The night at Thy command
Comes. I will eat and sleep and will not question more.
. . .
Las brasas del día son rojas,
Más allá de la colina turbia.
La cocina humea; el lecho de la casa oscura está hecho:
El cielo inmenso se oscurece por encima,
Y viene del gran bosque un chirrido chillón.
Hasta ahora, Señor, he sido guiado por Tu voluntad:
Tan larga la distancia, Señor, he seguido a Tí,
Y aún me pregunté.
La brisa del terreno embalsamado
Sopla hacia la orilla, de repente,
Y abofetea la puerta de mi casita.
Oigo la señal, Mi Señor – y la entiendo.
La Noche llega – de Tu dominio.
Comeré y dormiré y no preguntaré más.
. . .
Denise Levertov (1923-1997)
I had grasped God’s garment in the void
but my hand slipped
on the rich silk of it.
The “everlasting arms” my sister loved to remember
must have upheld my leaden weight
from falling, even so;
for though I claw at empty air and feel
nothing – no embrace –
I have not plummeted.
. . .
Yo había agarrado en el vacío el traje de Dios
pero mi mano resbaló en la seda exquisita.
“Los brazos eternos” que mi hermana amaba recordar
debieron haber soportado la carga pesada de mí
para que no me cayera;
porque aunque araño el aire vacío y me siento
nada – ningún abrazo –
no me he desplomado.
. . .
Robert Browning (1812-1889)
O never star
Was lost; here
We all aspire to heaven and there is heaven
If I stoop
Into a dark tremendous sea of cloud,
It is but for a time; I press God’s lamp
Close to my breast; its splendour soon or late
Will pierce the gloom. I shall emerge some day.
. . .
Ah, nunca fue perdido una estrella; aquí
Aspiramos a llegar al Cielo y existe allá
Por encima de nosotros.
Si me encorvo en un mar de nubes,
Negro y tremendo,
Sólo es por un breve tiempo; estrecho la linterna de Dios
Contra mi pecho; y el esplendor de su luz
Perforará el tiempo plomizo – tarde o temprano.
Algún día me apareceré.
. . . . .
Northwest-Coast Kwakwaka’wakw art is identifiable by its flamboyant and colourful carving and painting. Among the leading artists was Doug Cranmer (1927-2006), whose style was understated and elegant, and whose work found an international following from the 1960s onward. Kesu’ / Doug Cranmer was one of the very first Native artists in British Columbia to own his own gallery. A patient and dedicated teacher, he inspired a generation of younger Native artists in Alert Bay, B.C., and throughout the province.
. . .
Some Truths of The Kwakʼwala (Kwakiutl)-Speaking Peoples:
When the Transformer (Creator), Ḵaniḵiʼlakw, travelled around the world, he eventually returned to the place where Gwaʼnalalis lived. In an earlier encounter, the Transformer had beaten Gwaʼnalalis, who was ready for his return. Ḵaniḵiʼlakw asked, “Would you like to become a cedar tree?” Gwaʼnalalis replied, “No, cedar trees, when struck by lightning, split and fall. Then they rot away for as long as the days dawn in the world.” Ḵaniḵiʼlakw asked again, “Would you like to become a mountain?” “No,” Gwaʼnalalis answered, “For mountains have slides and crumble away for as long as the days dawn in the world.” The Transformer asked a third question: “Would you like to become a large boulder?” Again Gwaʼnalalis answered, “No. Do not let me become a boulder, for I may crack in half and crumble away as long as the days dawn in the world.”
Finally, Ḵaniḵiʼlakw asked, “Would you like to become a river?” “Yes, let me become a river, that I may flow for as long as the days shall dawn in the world,” Gwaʼnalalis replied. Putting his hand on Gwaʼnalalis’ forehead and pushing him down prone, Ḵaniḵiʼlakw said, “There, friend, you will be a river and many kinds of salmon will come to you to provide food for your decendants for as long as the days shall dawn in the world. And so the man Gwaʼnalalis became the river Gwaʼni.
As told by: Pa̱lʼnakwa̱laga̱lis Waʼkas (Dan Cranmer), 1930
. . .
Before the time of the great flood, the Da̱ʼnaxdaʼx̱w of Dzawadi knew that it would happen and began to prepare for it. Some of the people tied four canoes together and put their provisions in these. Dzawadalalis built a home of small poles, which he covered with clay. The others laughed at him, but he knew that he and his four children would survive the flood. When the rains came, the others tied their canoes to an elderberry tree, while Dzawadalalis began moving his belongings into his clay-covered house. One of the men who had ridiculed him said, “Please let me come with you,” but Dzawadalalis refused, saying, “Go to the mountain, for that is what you said you would do. My children and I will be locked inside this house, for we are going underwater.” Shutting the door, he began to sing, “Take care of us. I am going where you told me to go.”
Those people who had made fun of him floated around in the flood, which had reached the tops of the highest mountains in Dzawadi. For some time, Dzawadalalis and his children lived in the underwater house. Then he sent a small bird out. It retured to their house with a small root in his mouth, and so Dzawadalalis knew that the waters were beginning to subside. He waited for some time, then sent another small bird out. Again, it returned with evidence that the waters were still going down. The third time he sent a bird out, it brought leaves back from a tree. Finally, the fourth small bird was sent out and it brought back blades of grass in its mouth. Dzawadalalis knew then that it was safe to leave his underwater house. He instructed his children to open the door and he thanked the Creator for saving them. They survived because they believed they would be saved.
As told by: Watlaxaʼas (Jack Peters), 1980
. . .
The G̱usgimukw first lived at a placed called Guseʼ. The Transformer, Hiłatusa̱la, visited there during his travels around the world. There were only two people in the village, an old woman and a child. When asked why they were alone, the old woman replied, “All of our people have been eaten up by a monster in the river. Whenever someone has gone to get water, the monster has eaten them.” Hiłatusa̱la then asked the child to get him some water, for he was thirsty. The child was afraid to go but Hiłatusa̱la told her she had nothing to fear. As he put his Sisiyutł belt around her, the child, still afraid, took a water bucket and began walking towards the river.
Buried in the sand was the huge tongue of the monster. Without knowing it, the child walked right onto the monster’s tongue and was swallowed. Hiłatusa̱la began to sing, which made the monster appear and vomit an immense pile of bones – as well as the child it had just swallowed. “Now we will get to work, so that your tribe will increase in size again,” Hiłatusa̱la said to the child. They began putting the bones together in the right way to form bodies. When they were finished, Hiłatusa̱la sprinkled his life-giving water on the assembled bones and the people whose bones had been lain upon the beach came to life and stood up. They said to each other, “I must have been sleeping a long time.” Hiłatusa̱la told them, “You weren’t sleeping! You were dead and I brought you back to life. Now I will rid the river of the monster.” He shouted at the monster to show himself again. It did so, and, taking hold of it, he flung it away, saying, “You will not come again; you will be gone!”
As told by: Chief ʼWalas (James Wallas), 1980
. . .
The first man came down at T̕a̱ka, Topaz Harbour on the mainland. His name was Weḵa’yi. Lakata̱sa̱n is the name of the mountain there. After some time, a long time, the great flood was to come. So the people made cedar rope from the top of the mountain down to the salt water at the ocean. With this long rope they made an anchor and tied it to the mountain to secure their canoes during the flood. They fastened two canoes together and lots of people came. The flood lasted for a very long time, and it is said the tides were really strong and the weather was very bad. Because of the rough weather the canoes started to bang together and he feared the canoes would split and they would drown. Therefore Weḵa’yi cut off the people in the other canoe and they drifted away – and now they are the Kitimaat people. Then the great flood went down and he looked around and realized that he was in a different place. He had drifted up into Knight Inlet.
There was a woman named T̕łisda’ḵ and she had wings on her back. Weḵa’yi began to put stakes in the river to build a salmon trap and the woman asked him what he was doing. She told him that this was her river. Weḵa’yi argued and said it was his river and he had been there first. To test Weḵa’yi, the woman asked him, “If it is truly your river, then what type of fish return here?” Weḵa’yi replied and said, “Sockeye salmon, Coho salmon, Pink salmon, Spring salmon, Chum salmon and Steelhead salmon”. The woman told Weḵa’yi that if he really owned the river, then he would have known about the valuable eulachon that comes to this river. The woman and Weḵa’yi continued to argue over the ownership of the river and only in this version does Weḵa’yi win against her. She called them dzaxwa̱n or “candle fish”. She eventually allowed him to build a house there and make t̕łi’na or “eulachon grease” every spring.
After a while, people began to increase in numbers everywhere. Weḵa’yi called the people from all over. He put the grease into kelp bottles. He sold grease for slaves and became a great Chief. He also lived at Xwa̱lkw at Gwa’ni or Nimpkish River where there are logs piled up for the foundation of dwellings there. Weḵa’yi’s wife was a woman from Gilford Island named K̕ix̱waḵ̕a̱’nakw. He married her and got a copper named T̕łaḵwola.
There are many tribes and clans amongst the Ligwiłda’x̱w. But there are mainly two tribes today sharing common ancestry, beginning with Weḵa’yi and his family and their survival of the great Flood.
From the Ligwiłda’x̱w, as told by: Chief Billy Assu
. . .
Kwakwaka’wakw Truths: from U’mista Cultural Society, Alert Bay, British Columbia, Canada
. . . . .
Swampy Cree /ᓀᐦᐃᓇᐍᐏᐣ (which has sometimes been known as Maskekon, Omaškêkowak, or anglicized as Omushkego) is a variety of the more widespread Algonquian language – Cree. Swampy Cree has been spoken in Northern Manitoba, central to northeast Saskatchewan, and along the coast of Hudson Bay and James Bay in Northern Ontario. Approximately thirty years ago Swampy Cree had about 4500 native speakers; that number may be as low as 100 today (2014).
“Shaking the Pumpkin”
Translation from Swampy Cree: Howard Norman
One time I wanted two moons
in the sky.
But I needed someone to look up and see
those two moons
because I wanted to hear him
try and convince the others in the village
of what he saw.
I knew it would be funny.
So, I did it.
I wished another moon up!
There it was, across the sky from the old moon.
Along came a man.
Of course I wished him down that open path.
He looked up in the sky.
He had to see that other moon!
One moon for each of his eyes!
He stood looking
up in the sky
a long time.
Then he suspected me, I think.
He looked into the trees
where he thought I might be.
But he could not see me
since I was disguised as the whole night itself!
I wished myself into looking like the whole day,
but this time
I was dressed like the whole night.
Then he said,
“There is something strange
in the sky tonight.”
He said it out loud.
I heard it clearly.
Then he hurried home
and I followed him.
He told the others, “You will not believe this,
but there are ONLY two moons
in the sky tonight.”
He had a funny look on his face.
Then all the others began looking into the woods.
Looking for me, no doubt!
“Only two moons, ha! Who will believe you?
We won’t fall for that!” they all said to him.
They were trying to send the trick back at me!
That was clear to me!
So, I quickly wished a third moon up there
in the sky.
They looked up and saw three moons.
They had to see them!
Then one man
said out loud, “Ah, there, look up!
There is only one moon!
Well, let’s go sleep on this
and in the morning
we will try and figure it out.”
They all agreed, and went in their houses
I was left standing there
with three moons shining on me.
There were three . . . I was sure of it.
all the noises met.
All the noises in the world
met in one place
and I was there
because they met in my house.
My wife said, “Who sent them?”
I said, “Fox or Rabbit,
yes one of those two.
They’re both out for tricking me back today.
Both of them
are mad at me.
Rabbit is mad because I pulled
his brother’s ear
and held him up that way.
Then I ate him.
And Fox is mad because he wanted
to do those things first.”
“Yes, it had to be one of them,”
my wife said.
So, all the noises
These things happen.
Falling-tree noise was there.
Falling-rock noise was there.
Otter-mud-sliding noise was there.
All those noises, and more,
in my house.
“How long do you expect to stay?”
my wife asked them. “We need some sleep!”
They all answered at once!
That’s how my wife and I
sometimes can’t hear well!
I should have wished them all away
. . .
Trickster stories go far back in Cree culture (as elsewhere), but the figure here has been specifically invented by storyteller Jacob Nibenegenesabe, “who lived for some ninety-four years northeast of Lake Winnipeg, Canada.” Nibenegenesabe was also a teller (achimoo) of older trickster narratives, the continuity between old & new never being in question. But the move in the Wishing Bone series is toward a rapidity of plot development & changes, plus a switch into first-person narration as a form of enactment. In the frame for these stories, the trickster figure “has found a wishbone of a snow goose who has wandered into the Swampy Cree region and been killed by a lynx. This person now has a wand of metamorphosis allowing him to wish anything into existence, himself into any situation.” Howard Norman’s method of translation, in turn, involves “first listening to the narratives over & over in the source language, then re-creating them in the same context, story, etc., if notable, ultimately to get a translation word for word.”
[Originally printed in Shaking the Pumpkin: Traditional Poetry of the Indian North Americas. The book, first published by Doubleday in 1972 & later by University of New Mexico Press in 1986 & 1992, has now been out of print for several years. The full gathering of Howard Norman’s Swampy Cree translations, The Wishing Bone Cycle: Narrative Poems from the Swampy Cree Indians, was published by Ross-Erikson Publishing, Santa Barbara, & went out of print with the demise of that press.]
. . .
Three 21st-century Swampy Cree artists: