Bead Workers

Needles in skilled hands
pulled through cloth or skin
move of their own

gilded volition.

             Taaniwe laakwa?

In Shawnee,
you ask
             where in time

as opposed to when

and it helps me

             consider folds of territory

tilled by memory and capacity
where the ones I tender
             bloom quietly and eternally.

A strain of heirloom corn
roughly translates to the word


that germinate inside such a word;

wild horses, lilting shadows,
glimpsed in the elbows of the hills

             like opaque flags of prayer.

My distant kin in Neosho

folded deep indigo beans
into the palm of my hand

and said try them
             where you stay.

Within the words of a blessing
in my husband’s language

I recognize through repetition—

             The word for city.

             The word for garden.

Like an heirloom seed,

I was sown and cultivated
             back from the brink.

To rise within

             a place in time,

hands sorted
hundreds of seeds;
medicine and sustenance—

pallid disks of immunosuppressants
             and steroids.
             Flint corn from the Scioto Valley.

All those moments
I shook too hard

             to do it myself.

Running a finger

across the slight backs
of trade beads: cornflower blue,

             grassgreen, the white-heart red
                          a fire-flood of sunset.

I feel the shadow
of my aunt’s beading

wringing my neck and wrists.

Spells to protect

             my casing gates.

Cerrillos turquoise

             threaded into my earlobes.

Intricate blueprints

to the homelands
kept my toes
from the sky ladder’s

             sapphire rungs.

Sustainers are all around:

songs chanted
seven states away—glistening exhalations

of devotion and sacrifice,

             migrations of breath.

Adorn the skin with glass.

In a place in time

the ground warms and opens—

the hour is right,

             stitch a seed and it sustains.