Since Columbus

Grandmothers, Grandfathers — Ancestors spread over deserts, across plains. We watch the flight of the Spotted Eagle Listen to the mingling of blood.

Red pain deeper than skin, we swim Back through blood this morning moment. Brothers, Sisters in Four Directions Look to Father Sky, Mother Earth.

We know our histories as well as desert winds. Centuries of pain and prisons pierce this Dawn like a swift river that runs through us.

These few close moments are like the spreading Of sweetgrass, running water and trees. They are the fragrance of ancient stirrings Throbbing, sharp, insistent as the song Of the Eagle Bone Whistle.

Grandfathers, Grandmothers — The Spirit Drums are silent. Tonight, when the hot moon cries We will know that it rains In Four Directions.

As the title indicates, Blue Horse's poem is in part a chronicle about what has happened to Native Americans since the arrival of Columbus in the so-called New World. If nature imagery is central to her poem, perhaps the non-Native American interpretation of such imagery is tainted by European culture.

Here's how Blue Horse describes it: "When I use the words 'Four Directions' I capitalize them. I am referring to relatives. In western thought, this is not so; if you look at directions, you would call them perhaps, nature. (I always tell my students, 'I know you guys believe that everything has a spirit, too, even machines, because I see you kicking and cursing the pop and food machines when they eat your money.')"

"In the Old Testament," Blue Horse observes, "it says that there are four angels that sit on the four corners of the earth. Such is Native American thought. The Four Directions are spirits (angels) of the four winds. Each wind comes from a different direction and each has one or more Nations that 'sit' in that direction" (i.e., creatures with two legs, four legs or winds, etc.). She adds, "Each direction has a color — red, black, yellow and white, which stands for the four colors of people created by the same God. This reminds us that the earth is our mother, and we are related to all four colors of people and all the Nations that live and grow within those Four Directions.

"So when I think about the way Native Americans use nature in verse, I think: Mi Takuye Oysin. All My Relations."

As you can see by comparing and contrasting the views and approaches to nature by Sharon Klander and Charlene Blue Horse, it would be wrong for anyone to suggest how you should view your habitat. On the other hand, every nature poet from every culture or region has to observe nature through his or her own perspective and represent it through that filter as authentically as possible.

Now that we have reviewed the basics of nature poetry, let's consider the related genre of environmental verse.

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