NativeTech: Native American Technology and Art ~ Poems & Stories

The Shelter


Les Tate

I stand silently beneath the pale sky
Overlooking the widening valley before me.
A footpath anchored in the roots of trees
Leads downward along the gray sandstone hillside.
The path follows the wall a short distance,
Winding gently past tall old trees.
In the rock ahead is a tall vaulted opening
Falling gently away to the back and sides.
Spirits of ages past call to me.
The bluff shelter stands at the head of the valley,
A natural cathedral echoing the sounds of the forest.
I enter in awe,
Wander quietly across the shadowed soil,
Exploring places where my ancestors
Worked and slept, laughed and loved.
Near the center stands a large block of stone,
A silent sentinel guarding the entrance,
Its surface inscribed with symbols
Of the sun, the snake, and the four directions.
Nearby I sit on a rock,
Its surface pitted from the breaking of nuts
And the drip of water from the ceiling's edge.
The firepit shows evidence of recent use.
Perhaps by someone like me,
A wanderer returning home.
I close my eyes and imagine I can hear
The sounds of old ones
Talking about the past and the future,
The men and women working at the day's chores
While they watch their children and grandchildren
Playing and laughing;
Later sitting quietly and listening,
Passing the history of our people
From generation to generation,
The old and the young together as a family, as a people,
Their stories and songs now held in the creviced wall.
I feel that I have been here before, that I belong,
Part of the past, part of the present.
A tear rolls down my cheek
Joining the spring rains which have begun to fall.

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