the initiation of a young hunter

it happened at the place of the singing grandfathers
   in the fullness of the seventh moon

it happened like this
   a young man entered the forest, alone
no food in his belly, no warmth in his heart

for he was dying, he had been hunted
   with poisoned arrow
one, two, three, four times he had been shot
   with poisoned arrow
for he had been hunted, and he was dying

and when he lay himself down
   in the water
and the huntress came to claim him
   he did not cry out
when she pulled her long knife
   he did not struggle
when she made the first cut

but he did begin to sing
    as she did her work
in the water
   at the place of the singing grandfathers
in the fullness of the seventh moon

he sang like this
   mountain daughter, water lover
you’ve hunted well, you’ve claimed my soul

the huntress was pleased with his song
   as she cut his body open
and carried the meat, bones, hide, and
   singing-head of him back to her camp

as she cooked his flesh for dinner
   he sang
mountain daughter, water lover
   you’ve hunted well, you’ve claimed my soul

as she lay down to sleep
   he sang
mountain daughter, water lover
    you’ve hunted well, you’ve claimed my soul

as she entered the dreamgate
   he sang
mountain daughter, water lover
   you’ve hunted well, you’ve claimed my soul

in her dreaming
   she became a young deer
and the song, a tall and strong hunter
   with bow in hand
and still he sang
   mountain daughter, water lover
you’ve hunted well, you’ve claimed my soul

she ran from him
   but not so far, so she could still hear
his song. He came close, close
   arrow raised now
and she would run

it happened like this
   many times
a slow dance, a courted knowing
   a flowing understanding
between Human and Deer
   hunter and hunted
at the place of the singing grandfathers
    in the fullness of the seventh moon

and when she finally gave herself
   to the faithful hunter
this is what she said

you who sing the song of my dreaming heart
you who have tracked my wanderings
you who have known the lady of the water
you who have received my poisoned arrows
   one, two, three, four times
you who have given the fullness of your life and death
   in the water
at the place of the singing grandfathers
   in the fullness of the seventh moon

i take you as my lover, my hunter, my husband
to tend my body, to know my ways
to protect and care for me and my people
as you would your own 

my flesh, my heart, my bones, are yours
hold them in reverence
and you will be a great hunter
your people will always have meat

as she took his arrow into her
   soft body, he wept
as he sang to her
   mountain daughter, water lover
you’ve hunted well, you’ve claimed my soul

this is how the Deer people and the Human people
   came to be married
this is the old agreement between the hunter
   and the hunted
this is how you must go to the forest
   empty, wounded, shot with poisoned arrow
calling in the huntress
   with your songs of grief and praise
giving yourself fully
   to the wild edge of longing
in the water
   at the place of the singing grandfathers
in the fullness of the seventh moon

 

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