POETRY DISPATCH No. 361 | December 14, 2011
Three Native American Prayers
Editor’s Note: Though my working environment in the coop is saturated with ‘spirit’…the pine walls, glow with sacred memorabilia of all sorts, from hand-made wooden crucifixes to paintings, photographs, holy cards, carvings…windowsills of glass, pottery, sculpture…much of it reflecting the Southwest and the old country…much of it appealing to myth, mystery, meditation…there’s a particular place above my desk, to my right, where at least thirty years ago I posted a copy of “A Prayer of the Navaho Night Chant” which I found during one of my New Mexico sojourns, and which I have never removed since.
Though I don’t read it every day, or pray every day, I consider it a kind of blessing of words which hover around me, good days and bad days. Words that make a difference. Which is all any writer is ever after. His sole reason for being.
Along with the artwork on the coop walls done by many of my friends, here and there a warm, comforting and perfect piece of pottery by Chris Spanovich, a woman I truly loved, makes its presence felt. I smile. I walk over to it. I touch it. Her pottery begs to be held in both hands, like an offering—received. More spirit. More reverence. More prayer. I did a long story on her once, “Chris Spanovich, The Potter of Chimayo” which appears in DOOR TO DOOR, Ellis Press, 1985.
Prayerful, thankful…that’s how I feel today. That the arts speak to us in ways no organized religion can ever understand. All this spirit that surrounds me is all that really matters. ..Norbert Blei
I’m an Indian.
I think about common things like this pot.
The bubbling water comes from the rain cloud.
It represents the sky.
The fire comes from the sun
which warms us all, men, animals, trees.
The meat stands for the four-legged creatures,
our animal brothers,
who gave of themselves so that we should live.
The steam is living breath.
It was water, now it goes up to the sky,
becomes a cloud again.
These things are sacred.
Looking at that pot full of good soup,
I am thinking how, in this simple manner,
The great Spirit takes care of me.
— John Lame Deer
Greeting, Father’s Clansman,
I have just made a robe for you, this is it.
Give me a good way of living.
May I and my people safely reach the next year.
May my children increase; when my sons go to war,
may they bring horses.
When my son goes to war, may he return with black face.
When I move, may the wind come to my face,
may the buffalo gather coward me.
This summer may the plants thrive,
may the cherries be plentiful.
May the winter be good, may illness not reach me.
May I see the new grass of summer,
may I see the full-sized leaves when they come.
May I see the spring.
May I with all my people safely reach it.
— Crow Indian prayer
House made of dawn.
House made of evening light.
House made of the dark cloud.
House made of male rain.
House made of dark mist.
House made of female rain.
House made of pollen.
House made of grasshoppers.
Dark cloud is at the door.
The trail out of it is dark cloud.
The zigzag lightning stands high upon it.
Your offering I make.
I have prepared a smoke for you.
Restore my feet for me.
Restore my legs for me.
Restore my body for me.
Restore my mind for me.
This very day take out your spell for me.
Your spell remove for me.
You have taken it away for me.
Far off it has gone.
Happily I recover.
Happily my interior becomes cool.
Happily I go forth.
My interior feeling cool, may I walk.
No longer sore, may I walk.
Impervious to pain, may I walk.
With lively feeling may I walk.
As it used to be long ago, may I walk.
Happily may I walk.
Happily, with abundant dark clouds, may I walk.
Happily, with abundant showers, may I walk.
Happily, with abundant plants, may I walk.
Happily, on a trail of pollen, may I walk.
Happily may I walk.
Being as it used to be long ago, may I walk.
May it be beautiful before me
May it be beautiful behind me.
May it be beautiful below me.
May it be beautiful above me.
With it be beautiful all around me.
In beauty it is finished.
– A Prayer of the Navaho Night Chant