i remember when my mama took me up the mountain,
she told me,
"now, you are ready."
and pine and oak softly fluttered their leaves at my arrival.
there were yellow flowers,
strangling the delicate blue blossoms,
made of flimsy roots and spindly bosoms.
i was the youngest in a tribe of
golden skinned people;
moon cycles on the sides of their eyes,
and hair like cattails whispering in the dark.
with my stomach churning,
i entered the tall, dimly lit tepee.
the medicine man sat churning the ashes
in an empty fire-pit,
and women stood around me scattering
flower petals like
all over the red-dirt earth.
his eyes twinkled,
and told me things that he would only let the
i took my seat on a white sheep-skin,
as the night grew older,
the fire grew larger,
shapes elongated on the fair skin of the stretched
the flames dancing wildly,
smoke drifting up into the
the fire keeper stoked the raging
yellow and orange tongues,
and the medicine man sat with a bandanna on,
his waterfall nose moving,
and his leather brown skin creaking,
as he told us stories of the sacred medicine.
and we sat,
somebody started singing.
my mothers warm frame was close to mine,
and my step-father next to her,
shoulders touching in the close proximity,
intimate, smoky air.
they beat the deer-skin drum,
badum badum *** badum badum ***
in native languages like
they sang songs to the medicine,
for the opening of the heart;
their swift and strong voices
rising like smoke and flame.
when the drum was passed to me,
i didn't know any songs,
wasn't aware that i had to know any.
i started to hit the drum with the padded
closed my eyes,
feeling the sticky sweat of my perspiring forehead
drip down upon my licked lips,
tasting of wood and dirt.
i sang something lilting
sounds coming from the deepest
crevices of my throat,
being gently pulled from the grasp of my ribs.
the medicine man put pine on the fire,
it sizzled and breath was filled with
sweet and sharp.
when the air was right, and
the night was thick with song,
he uncovered baskets of small,
green and ridged fruit-like shapes.
the medicine was taking her form, and was cradled
as a native man took it around the circle,
along with oranges.
i'd find out soon why.
i took two, small and light in my fingers.
i closed my eyes and took the first bite.
my mouth was struck, eroding teeth
and erupting tongue
my face contorted from the bitter juices the small fruit
held within its delicate skin,
my stomach churned and i swallowed it down
biting into the orange, skin and all
begging for a shock of zest to take
down the intense flesh of the medicine.
i looked around,
some people were on their third, fourth.
the beat of the drums was constant,
along with the quiet,
restful crackle of the sighing fire.
the second bite was less of a surprise,
and i finished my first one.
it was only at the third bite of the second button
that my stomach refused to go any more without
the astringent juices of the
small fruit working its magic on my stomach.
i closed my eyes and embraced what was around me;
slowly swaying in the deep voices of my
and the heartbeat of the
soon, i felt weary.
my mother rested her hand like falling rain on my shoulder,
and i lay in the warm arms of her
twisting around me like snakes.
a traditional rollie was passed around,
made of corn husk and hand grown tobacco.
my eyes grew slow and drooping,
and i fell into the waiting arms of sleep
while listening to the music of
tobacco and wood smoke, hushed voices,
dancing fire, and alive laughter.
my sleep was deep and dreamless,
my body carried to other places by the medicine,
leaving my mind behind.
i woke to rough feet on the red dirt,
and my mother and father intertwined like red roses,
sleeping below the tepee's watch,
my mothers white skirt fanning out like
soft sheets in the summer
there were goodmorning smiles,
light spreading from one set of a skin to another,
as my family embraced me,
told me they were proud and grateful to me
for sitting with them.
a bowl of chocolate was passed around, along with a crate
of juicy, pink, dawn touched strawberries.
i dipped them in the dark, sweet and rich paste
and one after another,
felt myself expand into the universe even more.
only when my mother awoke,
to sprinkling flowers,
and lifted sky,
she told me that the chocolate held the medicine too.
i made my way across swaying, long grass,
and sat in the sun, sipping tea with a sliced lemon,
making art with twists and curls of my pencils and pens,
listening to the experiences of last night,
the sense of overwhelming love,
that was not quite drowning.
i basked in everything,
let the heat soak into my flesh,
the lilting laugh.
somebody handed me a guitar,
and i sang with my chocolate tinted lips,
and let my voice float within and around the mountain,
filling the tepee and the empty fire pit
with the sweet and bitter tastes of
i wrote this when i started remembering the night my mother took me for a peyote ceremony tepee meeting at a very young age. it was so beautiful, and an experience i will never forget. not until now, i noticed i had no poetry from it, so i decided to try and recreate the mind-blowing feelings of that night.
this will be part one of many other poems about the sacred medicines i have taken with my family and friends.
more info on peyote:
Peyote is a cactus that gets its hallucinatory power from mescaline. Like most hallucinogens, mescaline binds to serotonin receptors in the brain, producing heightened sensations and kaleidoscopic visions.
Native groups in Mexico have used peyote in ceremonies for thousands of years, and other mescaline-producing cacti have long been used by South American tribes for their rituals. Peyote has been the subject of many a court battle because of its role in religious practice; currently, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada and Oregon allow some peyote possession, but only if linked to religious ceremonies, according to Arizona's Peyote Way Church of God.