Red Willow Creek
by Sharmagne Leland-St. John

Fish drowse beneath the icy flow
of Red Willow creek.
Snow quietly piles up.

Too cold to play outside,
warmed by thick mud walls
inside the pueblo's adobe houses,

Maria and her children
string red chiles into ristras
to hang from vigas
to sell to tourists
for health and good luck.

The older girls bundle dried roses and sage
to create scented table decorations
for the holidays.

As they work they sing songs in Tiwa

The men make silver and turquoise jewellery
they'll sell come powwow time.

In the two rooms of their home
illuminated by candlelight,
shadows dance across adobe walls.

Electricity, running water,
indoor plumbing prohibited.

They don't need the dominant culture's
"comforts' to survive on their land.

They live in a past that will never die.

All they need is snow melt
from the Sangre de Cristos,
water from sacred Blue Lake
to fill Rio Pueblo and their creek
with gushing water;
a home for fish that will feed them,

the willows and aspens,
piñon and cedar,
cottonwoods, which they'll burn
for firewood in hornos
where Maria bakes
corn tortillas for her family
and roasts deer, elk,
rabbit and antelope
the hunters bring home
from the mountains.

Scented smoke fills the frosty air.

While snow falls gently on aspens.


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