Pollen Storm Blessing
There he spurneth dust of glittering grains;
How joyous his neigh,
There in mist of sacred pollen hidden, all hidden he;
How joyous his neigh,
There his offspring many grow and thrive forevermore;
How joyous his neigh!
-- from Song of the Horse, Navajo
Bahe would go to the spring hills to pray against the war. He thought he would attend the war if he had to. He wouldn’t run away from it, even though there was a new woman. With the new woman he had made a child. The child was four months old. He was called Siggy, after Sigurd, the woman’s father. Bahe called the woman Haansh’Taye, which in the Apache means “butterfly.” Her other name was Susie, but Bahe called her Haansh’Taye because he thought of her well shaped hands as delicate wings of the butterfly, and when she held his face between her hands he imagined that this was his only place of brief repose in all the world.
With the war threatening he spent as much time between there as possible. At night he would cry sometimes about having to leave his woman and son and he would ask her to hold his face between her hands and pray against the war. And she, while comforting him with her good words, would begin to cry as well. Then baby Siggy would wake up and start in too. At times like this when the small room would echo with wailing the air would suddenly become cold and it was ghostly when the air became filled with their own visible breath. The haze of their breathing turned blue like there was a neon light from outside their window shining in but there was none and neither he nor the woman knew anything about the blue haze, only that it frightened them and caused them, all three, to huddle against the terror on the corner on the bed. Everything fell away at such times, the hum of engines and the gears shifting over the streets, the sirens, the horns, the rough voices of the kids on the walk and the drunk rantings of husbands heavy on the bottle, everything, everything fell away into the heavy silence and then it was terribly lonely because they felt like they didn’t even have each other then. Bahe thought that this was the way it would be for his family if the war called him out.
There were always images that appeared in the blue haze. All the images were of men, brown men like Bahe himself, and young yet with hair like jet. The men would be stripped to the waist, their torsos lithe and tawny and shining with sweat as they danced around to old drums and sang. But neither Haansh’Taye nor Bahe could hear the drums or hear the men singing. There was just that silence. Bahe and his woman would look across that silence at each other and down at the baby like there was a wide and dark blue sea that separated them finally and completely and made communication impossible. They could only cry and watch the men dance. From the waist down they could see that the men wore fatigues and high black boots, army issue. Bahe knew the men. They were his relations, his ancestors, his uncles and great uncles, his grandfathers and his grandfathers’ brothers, all dead, all passed on in other wars. Only when Bahe and his family stopped crying would the images be gone. The haze would dissipate slowly and the room become warm again, like it ought to be on a spring evening.
So Bahe would go to the hills to pray against the war. He’d take Haansh’Taye with him, and she would place little Siggy into the cradle that Bahe was placed in when he was a baby, and she would strap this onto her back when they struck out onto the trail that led to the meadow where there was a stream and a falls that came down the hills.
One morning after crying all nigh long Bahe called into work and told them that he couldn’t make it, that he was sick. Then he rolled over and shook Haansh’Taye gently on the shoulder. “Haansh’Taye. It looks nice out there today. Let’s take a lunch and go to the hills.”
Haansh’Taye rolled over to face Bahe. Little Siggy lay between them. She stroked the baby’s face and looked up at Bahe. “Okay sweetie. Let’s do it. Let’s go. Did you call into work?”
“I called. I had to lie again, but they wouldn’t understand if I said the truth.”
“I know, sweets, I know.”
Baby didn’t wake until they were already in the truck. When he woke he began to cry. Haansh’Taye just placed a breast in his mouth. After a while he became full and yawned and was burped, then placed back into his special seat. The movement of the truck made him sleepy and pretty soon his head fell to one side.
Haansh’Taye had made for them a dinner of thick sliced cold roast beef along with some fried bread and roasted and peeled green chilis. They also had some coffee and an old percolator which was placed over the fire to heat. All this was placed into the backpack that Bahe carried, as well as a blanket and diapers for Siggy. They never ate breakfast on days they went to pray in the hills and always ate toward the evening when they were finished.
At the woods it was a warm day, and the sun was out high and strong. There was a breeze, and on the breeze there were fresh scents of pines and grasses and flowers. Bahe and Haansh’Taye got out of the truck and looked across the cab at each other and smiled. Haansh’Taye came around to where Bahe was leaning up against the hood and put her arms around him. She kissed him long and deep and their faces lingered next to each other and brought out new scents of skin against skin. This was a vital time for them, to be together like this in the morning air of the country after such a night as had passed where they each had been gripped and stifled in fear and an insurmountable loneliness that left them feeling they were 10,000 miles apart.
Bahe and Haansh’Taye had not planned to bear a child together. In fact, they had seen very little of each other after the first few times of love making, and even after Haansh’Taye was into the initial terms of her pregnancy they rarely spoke about establishing a life together. They found it difficult at first; it was a tremendous burden coming to appreciate one another. The love was not there. Only the sex and the anger and the fear. But now, they found themselves to be deeply wed, and the love had come and the baby had come and the commitment had come and then the war came and it all pressed them deeper into one another so they thought they could never be pried apart again. And then with the war came the cold blue hazes and the awful visions.
Baby Siggy let out a small gurgle from the cab of the truck. Bahe and Haansh’Taye parted with a final kiss and went about preparing for the hike into the woods. This was never a solemn affair for them. There was only joy and a deep sense of wonder and appreciation for life. With the spring there was always life renewed and this was a common bond between Bahe and Haansh’Taye and the land they walked on. Each day after every terrible night their little procession moved along the trail through the woods. They found themselves to be a part of a constant cycle of loss and coming together, of death and rebirth, and it made them feel as if nothing could touch them, that they had been make privy to an eternal secret. Even if Bahe were to go off to the war and die, maybe he wouldn’t really die after all, just go off to some other place to rest before coming back. But still, there were those terrible visions, and they came time and time again. Bahe thought that even if there were an ounce of fear left within him the visions would return again and again and perhaps he would find himself with his ancestors, dancing in the haze. So he prayed to let go of his fear. He prayed to be strong. He prayed against the war.
At the place where they make their camp near the stream there was a young and sturdy dogwood where Haansh’Taye hung baby Siggy in his cradle. The blossoms were just starting to form on the tree. Haansh’Taye stayed within earshot of the baby while she moved about the area in search of wood for the fire. Bahe went off alone towards to stream where the little waterfall was. He sat on a flat slab of granite which overlooked the small pool of water that the falls fell into. He produced a pouch which held his smoking mixture and from this rolled four cigarettes while making a song.
In times past when they had come to the hills it had been peaceful and serene but these days it was not so quiet. Fort Leonardrock was nearby and in full swing; all the troops were in heavy rotation. As Bahe smoked he could hear the heavy trucks rattle and heave over the washboard roads that criss-crossed the area they were camped in. The jets screamed around overhead and the explosions went off constantly. Bahe smoked and prayed while all this was going on, almost expecting to see from over the crest of the hill a movement of troops hupping doubletime through the woods. These things didn’t sit well with Bahe, but he felt it important that he place himself there in the midst of wartime preparations where his fear was at its strongest, thereby confronting the greatest looming cloud of his life at the place where it resided.
At pool’s edge beneath and across the way from where Bahe sat grew a wide ring of cattails. Beyond the cattails at the far edge was the meadow. The meadow sloped gently uphill from the stream bed and there on the hill the grasses waved in the breeze drawing Bahe’s attention gently and slowly and rhythmically so that everything, everything fell away like in the cold blue haze. The trucks, gone. The jets, gone. The explosions, gone. The troops, gone. Everything, gone. But this was no cold blue haze in a tiny room in a corner of the city. Here the canopy rose up high and spread out beneath the sky like a green wing, the tip of which brushed up against the meadow and rested there on the downstroke like the gesture of a mother protecting her young. From here Bahe peered out onto the meadow. He smoked his fourth cigarette. The grasses waved. The wildflowers nodded beneath the fat yellow glory of the afternoon sun and from the spaces between the leaves of the canopy shone the fat glory in wide bright angular beams down onto the edge of the stream on the forest floor. On the beams on the sun there came the pollen from the meadow. Slow, heavy, steady, a pollen storm blessing. Bahe breathed it in, and he breathed it out, smoking.
Copyright © Horse of the Sun and Keith Haines 1999-2002. All Rights Reserved.