Native Moons, Native Days
Bowman Books, Bowman Books, 2012
This collection is my gift to my indigenous relatives whose lives and history are in danger of being lost to assimilation and erasure. I choose to feature the natural world and the world of the people who gave me life and legacy by including words and phrases in the original Abenaki Language in several of the poems.
The book is organized around the 13 moons (months) of the Aboriginal calendar and features those months and the days of the week. Some poems are personal stories of everyday life, fishing, rivers, mountains, travel, and family. I begin the book with a creation story and end with a tale of the here and now, a bit of a lament:
Everything started over water:
bows, arrows, winds gathering, pulling
primal ocean into the air, sending
it back in swirls, funnels, swells. At first
nothing but water, and over water, air.
Blue air filled with people. Over water,
a hole in the clouds and a woman
looking through, dreaming and falling. (p.7)
What Old Moon?
In the new way, on the new calendar,
twelve moons, like apostles, gather
around the sun which defines
our days. What old moon has gone
from the sky to make room
for the things we rush to? Appointments
meeting this or that requirement, checks
deposited, markets shopped
for plastic food with ingredients
no one can pronounce. What moon went
missing in the dark of a new moon,
during a night so black no one noticed
it had been sent away. Or does it live
behind the sun, where the ancestors dance
in its ivory light, where the maker
praises its beautiful face? What name
has disappeared from the winter count? (p.71)
These two poems seem to bring the reader into sharper focus on what indigenous life has been and has become.
What has been said about the poems:
What a gift to read Carol Bachofner's poetry, full of words and phrases from her native Abenaki language that make us long for a kinder world, a world that shows us the possibilities of turning away from the face paints of war — red and black — and opt instead for yellow, the color of peace. Very good poems, indeed.
— Alice Azure, Along Came a Spider, Games of Transformation
"Our words are a clearing place, a place for fire" … Here too they are the words of her Native relatives and ancestors… Bachofner tends a poetic fire that joins her to such tribal luminaries as Joseph Bruchac, Cheryle Savageau, and Joseph Laurent.
— Siobhan Senier, ed. Dawnland Voices: an anthology of indigenous writing fromNew England
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typical Abenaki double-curve design