Storm owls, “Gaakaabishiinyag,” the mated pair
in the rain tree by the crossroads — in eight,
mud-caked tire tracks, crisscrossed to make a square,
I turn to the four compass points — and wait
for the storm shadows to stir. It’s been flood
season all year. Something’s in there: the stormhead,
in the stormcloud, the cloudburst of my blood.
Blood that I’m deaf to. Speaking blood. In dread,
in dreams storms brew and something is revealed,
though when I wake it’s all gone. But those owls,
“Gaakaabishiinyag,” they dwell where all else flees.
I’m no shaman — just dream deaf and unhealed.
Dream that wounds each time. Dream that disembowels.
Dream that leaves me in such confused frenzies.
I must be careful here. In Anishinaabemowin (the Ojibwe language), gaakaabishiinh is the name for the Eastern Screech owl, and the -yag of gaakaabishiinyag indicates the noun is plural, in this case two owls. I’m not Ojibwe, my ancestors came from the Ukraine, Italy and Ireland and it’s not lost on me that when Anglos want to try and grasp the spirit world (as what keeps happening in the New Age movement, for example) they fall back on ripping off Indigenous cultures and calling it their own. It’s for that reason (and many others) that I would also never call myself a shaman, since that describes a spiritual healer who works on behalf of her community and I have no community and cannot even heal myself. I’m using this Ojibwe term, however, because on the last full moon in April I built a little altar at the southeast corner of the cemetery crossroads that I live near and each night at dusk a pair of small owls come and visit. I am also slowly trying to learn to speak and listen in Anishinaabemowin and the more vocabulary that I use in my poetry the better understanding I’ll have with how the language works.