Circle of the Flowering Tree (A Chickasaw Prayer)


He deadens the living. 
Lays his stone axe to the root,
falters a grim perimeter round the base, 
cleaves the cover, stripping bark
to bloodlet life from branches
then moves to decimate the next one.
His family consumes him
as does his god, Aba’ binni’li’.
Circling counterclockwise
he sings the song of the sun,
wielding his death axe rosary, 
cultivating a clearing for food.
The wood he huddles for fuel,
to foster prayers for his people,
incense, breath of the dead,
sacred fire sustenance
for hearth body, secret soul,
whirls to the sky to whisper
a plea for returning, to lift
Bala’, Olbi’, and Tanchi’
harmonious from the slaughter
to flower among the voices
of the forgotten.

Aba’ binni’li’ - Creator
Bala, Olbi, and Tanchi' - Beans, Squash, and Corn

To the center of the world you have taken me and showed the goodness and the beauty and the strangeness of the greening earth, the only mother — and there the spirit shapes of things, as they should be, you have shown to me and I have seen. At the center of this sacred hoop, you have said that I should make the tree to bloom ... With tears running, O Great Spirit , Great Spirit, my Grandfather — with running tears I must say now that the tree has never bloomed. A pitiful old man, you see me here, and I have fallen away and have done nothing. Here at the center of the world, where you took me when I was young and taught me; here, old, I stand, and the tree is withered, Grandfather, my Grandfather! ... It may be that some little root of the sacred tree still lives. Nourish it then, that it may leaf and bloom and fill with singing birds. Hear me, not for myself, but for my people; I am old. Hear me that they may once more go back into the sacred hoop and find the good red road, the shielding tree! ... In sorrow I am sending a feeble voice, O Six Powers of the World. Hear me in my sorrow, for I may never call again. O make my people live!

- Black Elk, holy man of the Oglala Lakota (Sioux) tribe (from Black Elk Speaks)

Photo of the sculpture Appeal to the Great Spirit taken in front of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston