The sunset seeps into trees
spreading reddish gold colors
from leaves, to branches, to roots –
the fanfare of every dying day.
Underneath the blushing sky
in the shadow of a cottonwood tree,
a teenage boy patiently waits
with legs crossed and eyes closed.
Hours float by,
and he worries that his blood,
watered down like cheap whiskey,
has forgotten the way.
Long ago this trial was common,
his ancestors journeyed under similar trees
to find their names – their paths.
Now the boy seeks their wisdom – their aid.
A burst of violent wind
showers his onyx hair with leaves and twigs.
With a shake of his head,
he opens his dusk colored eyes.
A translucent old man
flickers before the boy,
points toward a clearing,
and ignores his blatant disbelief.
As he moves to the clearing
his sneakers melt into moccasins,
while his rough denim jeans
transform into softened deer hide.
The wraiths appear from all directions –
ancestral spirits clothed in hunting leathers,
armed with spears, bows, and knives
alert and watchful for their prey.
Thundering hooves of spectral bison
kick up nonexistent dust to cloud his eyes.
A wooden spear is placed in his hands
as he is pulled into the hunt.
With little hope of striking anything
his spear careens into the herd,
but encounters nothing – the buffalo are gone
and the spell is broken.
He opens his eyes to a changed world
full of firefly stars and cozy, twilight skies.
He sits, surrounded by silent trees
and whispers from the spirits
that beseech him to “come home.”
But their home is gone,
lost like the great herds of buffalo,
taken from their lands
and forever changed.
Now he understands that the world
is different and the same;
He is different and the same,
And he accepts his name and his place.