Riven

(A Rannaigheacht Ghairid)

Once I dreamed
Ospreys soared where salmon teemed.
Frigid streams and waterfalls
Frosted walls where glaciers gleamed.

Darkness cowled
The moon whenever wolves howled
Until hunters fired a torch
That scorched the realms where night prowled.

Sunlight slew
Calves* of glaciers tinted blue,
Snowy owls, and arctic birds.
Hungry herds of caribou

Wandered far,
But the fervid morning star
Supped on ice that could not sate:
Gate of hell was left ajar.

Eagles screamed
As the broken ice unseamed.
Now the white of desert sands
Blankets lands where once I dreamed.

*Chunks of ice break off the end of a glacier and produce icebergs in a process known as “calving.”

 

As Long as Eagle Flies*

(A Rannaigheacht Ghairid)

This they swore—
Strangers eager to explore
Traversed our hills undaunted,
Wanted passage, nothing more.

They found gold—
Riches made prospectors bold.
On the Black Hills, ours by right,
White man’s treaties did not hold.

To end war,
In exchange for golden ore
They drove us to Standing Rock,
Fenced like flock forevermore.

Gold-plate lies:
Words on paper recognize
Borders where the rivers roam,
Home as long as eagle flies.

Army Corps
Threatens homeland as before.**
We draw bows with words to fight,
Cite the treaty they ignore.

Eagles soar—
Though they claim the treaty tore,
On Black Hills of Dakota
To Lakota, this they swore.

 

*The Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851 recognized the sovereignty of the Lakota Sioux over the Great Plains “as long as the river flows and the eagle flies.”  The Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868 prohibited white settlement in the Black Hills for all time, but the subsequent discovery of gold generated an influx of miners who violated the treaty with impunity.

**Proponents of the Dakota Access Pipeline have asked the Army Corps of Engineers to approve construction of an oil pipeline under the Missouri River less than one mile upstream of the Standing Rock Reservation.  The Lakota have protested on the grounds that the project will contaminate their sole source of drinking water and disrupt their sacred lands.

 

Elizabeth Spencer Spragins is a linguist, writer, poet, and editor who taught in North Carolina community colleges for more than a decade.  She writes in traditional poetic forms that focus on the beauty of landscapes and their inhabitants.  Her bardic verse in the Celtic style has been published by The Lyric, The Quarterday Review, and The Society of Classical Poets Journal.  Her tanka and short verse have appeared in Bamboo Hut, Skylark, Peacock Journal, Atlas Poetica, and the anthology Neon Graffiti.  An avid swimmer and an enthusiastic fiber artist, she lives in Fredericksburg, Virginia.

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2 Responses

  1. Carole Mertz

    I love your material and beautiful rhymings. This especially having just re-read Silent Spring and having reviewed the poetry collection Whereas, of Layli Long Soldier, an Oglala Lakotan. Reading your poems put into place so many things I’ve wanted to, but haven’t been able to express.

    Reply
  2. Lorna Davis

    These are beautiful and powerful. I love the imagery in Riven, and the strong emotion in As Long as Eagle Flies. This Celtic form seems to have a solemnity to it, very fitting for the subjects.

    Reply

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