Darkness, Only Light

Sandy Eastoak
Darkness, Only Light

dPress 2007 Sebastopol
32 pp hand sewn

Cover painting by the author


I am a raw wound of the wind
blowing into crevices
between day & night
I listen
to smiles & frowns of ancient ones
far & long ago

their words push
like soft flutterings of little wings
against my direction

they swing me like a compass needle
always facing your north

I am hollowed out
like the dome of the night sky
I rotate ancestral constellations
over your relentless spin

I become beauty
flying the starlit dark
creating again & again

I become a song
the kachinas are singing
for you, for

national lament

who has made a
monster of our president
if not the dead
whose pictures
can't appear

who has demonized
the right if not
shadows along the corridors
of abu ghraib

how can i hold my head high
while he smiles
under headlines

the word president
has crumbled to poison
on our tongues

the flags that rose
in our hearts when
we believed ourselves
led along paths
of righteousness
hang tattered
& ass-wiped

the president & his team
carouse with puppet

oceans of our tears
turn red
with stolen


all the years i didn't
know you
mold around my back
as though i've always
slept in them

i touch your face
patterned with dry wind
& salt
wish i touched your skin
unlined & raw with innocence
the smooth swell
of young muscles
broad & open
the way boys are
to touch now
the lines of long winters
hot storms sharp words
cuts me in two
like a knife
made of rainbow

along my fresh edges
i feel women magpies
ultramarine blues
snow drifts ears of corn
hair gently brushed
from languid eyes
smells of love
& bitterness of voices
turned away seeing
only the gap

under your eyes
waves of creases
so soft to my
curious fingers
i could fall into crying
until boats sail
on a tear ocean
their captains
jolly & singing
songs free of
any reference
to love

dipping their
into rum
& laughing
about old

all the years i didn't
know you
mold around my back
as though i've always
slept in them

when your weight
in my arms

when your strength enfolds me &
moves me against gravity

when your lightness
glides over me
playful as an otter

the hemlines of your
former loves
brush my knees
i have learned to
take their hands
& love them
where they've gone
in the world or out

when i receive
their anguish
& good will
washing like a flashflood
or deep pool
i burrow
into the hollow of your rib
hear the eloquence
of your heart beats
as full into mystery
as sage
on a mountain

the vast plains of
your experience
stretch away below me
i can fly over
like a hawk
see small movements
of rabbit & quail

i don't plummet
from the sky & strike
their nourishment
rises & suffuses me
until your land
becomes my sky

all the years i didn't
know you
mold around my back
as though i've always
slept in them

stones that left your
boy's hand to skim
across water & sink
stones that broke
the surface of your
stones that sang
ballads under
your sleeping bag
stones so big you climbed them
stones that pulled the
muscles of your back
defined your manhood

when your father
speaks harshly
i will be there
smiling so your
heart doesn't
when your mother
calls you back
from adventure
i will roll my
eyes to keep
your breathing
i will cut loose
the limiting singsong of your
brother's taunts & brags
by the time you
are an old man
you will shine
like a god
because i have
been with you
every step of
the way

all the years i didn't
know you
mold around my back
as though i've always
slept in them

i have come into
your life in a
later chapter
but fragments
of letters of my name
appear even
in the earliest
i breathe
the smell of
your neck
before long i will
appear on the
swing beside you

my own years
the little girl
who grew up
to be loved by you
cannot be
so sad
father's crashing fury
mother's stinging
butterfly neglect
don't cast
me orphan
into dark alleys of
clever adaptation
i thought it was
the trees alone who
kept me sane
but now i find
singing among their
sheltering branches
the bird of your
bright cure

we color all the trumpets
& harps
fiddles &
grasshopper notes
guitars making
summers & springs
flowers falling or
rising to unfold
meadows where
we chased
or fell
or lay in sensual
hope of

i laugh into your
so you are
a lighter & more
confident old man
you move along
my young woodland paths
bending me
into a woman
& calm

all the years i didn't
know you
mold around my back
as though i've always
slept in them

sudan, ruwanda, radio

i dont know where
desert ends
& rainforest begins

I dont know where
blood ends
& mayhem begins

how can i listen
to the news

i dont know where
democracy ends
& freedom begins

I dont know where
camels end
& giraffes begin

how can i separate
the lies

i dont know where
arab muslims end
& black muslims begin

i dont know where
open skies end
& downpours begin

how can i stop
one bullet

i dont know where
kindness ends
& courage begins

i dont know where
starvation ends
& hunger begins

how can i dry
one tear


a lily green & white
flutters across our path
we follow through pale grasses
find a praying mantis
so huge our eyes
flare, then narrow
to miss nothing
how she tips
her smart clipped diamond
eager head
her legs so thin
we can't guess how
their thread lengths
support her turgid body
a jet black spot
at the nape of her arms
we don't know what she is
or why
old, i think, the
matriarch of local
but free of regal boredom
on her solitary &
inventive own

when your hand moves
toward her
to guide your curiosity
the seamless
flashes through me
how i love
the way you take her
deep inside you as you
draw no line between her
breath & yours
die into the fire that
drives her wings
her predator's awareness

i die with you
& we stand like sunshine
as she blooms her lily wings
& rises like
she crosses the suddenly
visible air
the suddenly audible
alights in a small
dark oak

wild turkey

an old bird
gone are the days
he could stare down
every cock
take his pick of the hens
take all the hens

what adventures lie
between today & the foggy
morning he steps
into death

she is never far away
that small one with the
bent wing feather
making little clucking sounds
picking caterpillars off
low branches
sad with bright

if she went away the sun
would shine music on
his bronze back & he could
hear it
maybe a fox
will get her in the night

a beautiful day
symphonic smell
of moss & rotting log
a tangle of ripe berries
flings out a banquet
he looks around to be
sure she finds them

that night the fox
whose head rests on her
full belly
is his bright feathered

elect indians

i say, i want a bumper sticker
that says elect indians
my lover gags
remembering crooked mean indians
back where he lived so long

i say, then think of some other
bumper sticker quick way to say
i want my country run
by native intelligence

i want every development decision
run past sister otter & brother pine
i want to elect someone
who knows you have to ask & thank & honor
oak before you take acorns
someone who knows the best use of wetlands
is wet

someone who will never find a good reason
to poison
air or water or soil
who's kin to even pugnacious weeds

i want my government managed
by men & women who ask the wind
which way to blow
who put their hand on the trunk
of redwood to feel their own heart beat

i want all the laws with no kindness in them
made into smoke signals

not all indians know these things
& some white washichu follow them
best they can
but when i go to the websites
of native environmentalists
i feel a cool wind that smells

i want to smell that wind every time
i read the newspaper
i want to smell that wind
in public halls

high wind

they say you're
abusive i should
don't i

paint hollywood
wallboard sun
on a porch swing

they're farmers
plodding safe
in their indolent valleys

we're explorers
groping the high ridge
through dark storms

some days i envy
their gentle harvest
of round pumpkins

but never trade
the shatter of lightning
our bones visible

the wet nostril light
as clouds thin
known, forgiven,

polar bears

do you remember
ice fishing

it was maybe six
eight hundred years

a happy life, that one
& simple

we met as children

watching each other
cautiously at
first then running
wild over the meadow
just emerging from piled

small wildflowers
laughing as loud as
we singing
beside the new
stomachs grumbling
for our forgotten

our families traveled
with different herds
so sometimes weeks would
pass then sometimes
you'd come with
mine or i'd go

they all winked
happy at our glad
games & looking toward

& it came

first ecstasy
then understanding
deeper & easier
season by season

& the small son
who rose the sun in
your eyes & made you

then the daughter
& you discovered how
your hands could
twist beauty everywhere
in bone fiber dye

she made you known
for craft that became
our people's as you

one winter day when our children
had grown beyond
we caught five fish against hunger
when the white bear came
we saved ourselves
by losing our

but you were angry
even your cool wisdom
left you crazy
over this one thieving

we talked with death
in our lodge
& you went across
the frost hard ground
to meet him
just your knife
you'd carved magic
in the handle
i'd sung the

you tracked the bear
& met him on
the ice
where you baited the
scene with new

& when he came with
fangs roaring
you stood & spat
your secret words

i followed &
the two of you

i lost the easy man
of innocence
& gained the bear man
of power

you cleaned the skin
& made the robe that
marked you
you gave the meat
to everyone & all
the dogs
songs & sparks
lit the long

i was a singer
now everyone wanted to hear
i glowed with
your honor
carried your light like the
sun in my two

love lit winter
bright as midsummer
the taste of berries
was always on our

our grandchildren
were favored & kept
faith with the people's
each giving full

their broad smiles
made you laugh &
grow ever more

after years you
one day you said
i will not pass
another winter

readied me, promising
to stay close
until i

one morning you
lay in my arms
counting every sky
wide & beautiful because
i was there
& i counted every
earth fragrant & solid
because of

you stayed close
the grandchildren
were happy to see me
talking with you
i missed your

seasons later
i said i'm going to your grandfather
walked over the ice
to find your bear's

when she brought her
sharp teeth to my throat
i was already flying
glad & grateful
your welcome big
as the whole sky

do you remember
ice fishing

if you wish to believe

when you took the long way home
southwestward a part of the still wild mesa
before the new houses
down where the fragment of old road
to pilar enters the gorge

not saying anything just driving me
a surprise
the breath of that land poured ochre light
emptied our fullness

so surprised
we walked down the road
far as my acrophobia relented
giddy with sounds
our words spare
listening with the restrained hunger
of connoisseurs

some people travel to windsor castle
shake hands with the queen
some people visit the vatican
kiss the pope's ring

by your side i walked the gorge road
slightly threatened by unknown occupants
of a car that thankfully withdrew in dust
a might grieved by the tangle of refrigerators
old mattress springs tossed down a ravine

walked the prismatic void of gravity
scanned with you stark distances
of colored rock & vivid angles
held your hand in the sonorous quiet
where a small bird's wings makes thunder

not like visiting the vatican in tourist throngs
more like after dark, a small bat flying
unnoticed along the high ceiling
watching the pope brush his teeth & sleep

more soul sharp
than landmarks of civil time
this place enters my lungs
blessed by your breathing

at your side even the vatican
would hum with bat-tasty insects
reek with bug-lucious plants

when we breathe beauty & mystery
at the thin edge of danger
i am made into nothing
when our fingers interlace
! music is first born

every place you take me
pulses a particular life in my veins
exudes a particular scent in my hair
your companionship has the power
of original creation

the place becomes an altar
you lay me over its pristine cloth
movements of your hands
your sparse savvy words
call god who comes
transforms me into bread & wine
feeding the faithful
for a long time