Cambridge Book Review


for Charles Mitchell

One day in the farthest of woods
The smoke gatherer was traveling
It was slower going than he thought
Deep inside the rough undergrowth
The Spirit-flowers pulling at his legs

He was walking, and right in his steps
Was the sitting birch
Whose skin had once been silver
Here was a soul of the forest
He had not come upon before

About knee-high in the trunk
Was the hole shaped like an eye
Long ago it had been speared by lightning
Where the drums were coming from
He could not gather

He was seeing the round face peering out
From inside that cave of a tree
It was a thought not strange to him
He had been told the stories

Of so many things that rose out of the earth
Many leaves that appeared as butterflies
Conch shells from a sea of long spines

Reedy music from the near side of rivers
Whistling from a hawk, far off and falling
A hum of cicadas, musty and low

The faces of little ones
Who would cry at the center of the forest
The heads of elk, from whose mouths
All the rainstorms would swirl

But above the crevasse of the tree
There was a white-haired old woman
She wore great wings, covered with the fur
Of many winters into the past

These were the things
That were the gifts
Of this Spirit of the tree

A gift of turning
Into this one path far from home
Where smoke gatherers had come
So often before

A tree's dreaming it was
That is always to be seen
And then of knowing one's own face
Deep inside the old birch


Our good friend Charles Mitchell works with the visions he receives as an indigenous artist. He puts down his broad awareness on canvas. This was written after viewing his painting Pearl Woman. One can see this work in the video.

-- J.S.

Three Poems by Jim Stevens

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