(A penny-whistling woman is up to no good)
Woman turning 80, you are turning
like Turtle Island, Mother Earth,
into new season, this June, this infinite day,
by lake so ancient
she knows no age, only
sun shimmering on waves wrinkling
her deep face – at night, star-moon glimmerings
smoothing water skin again.
Woman turning 80, by this Indian lake
I bow to your hazel-eyed heart, your
white-haired spirit. In these hands I bring you
my own woman's heart, my Iroquois ceremony
honoring women who unfold like gold
butterfly wings into medicine women,
storytelling women, whistling women.
Woman turning 80, we are not disposable labels
or obsolete numbers where I come from.
We cradle the first stardust in our whirling atoms.
We are as ancient as Big Bang birthing
of universe, as newborn as our latest dream.
So I honor sacred stars of winter in your snow hair,
gilded trees of summer in your leaf eyes, Sister Turning Woman.
Woman turning 80, I gift you wings from when
swans broke Sky Woman's fall to Turtle's back,
from when a smoke-haired dreamer drifted down
to edgeless lake. From when she round-danced Turtle
into Turtle Island, where I greet you now.
Woman with wampum for veins
I sing you 80th birthday – wish you re-birth every day.
Woman turning 80, I honor you – your marriage
of many years, your husband, your five children, your friends.
Bright Spirit Woman, I bow to your "kicking a hole in the universe"
the way Georgia O'Keefe once kicked it.
Changing Woman, keep kicking! Keep flying into
other universes, keep playing the pennywhistle, keep
beating the men at pool, keep drinking the waters of fire.
Woman turning 80, hazel-eyed lady of white laurel body,
lover of laughter, mountains, small-town barrooms, animals,
forest freedom – Woman Turning Ever More Beautiful,
there are dreams still star-shooting your way. Corn Maiden
who brings yellow growth ambles through wildflowers. Green Man
ferries the maiden in you across open-armed waters. And
Dariel, Birthday Girl, swan wings rise forever from your wild rose heart.
BIO: Susan Deer Cloud is a widely published, award-winning writer of
Mohawk/Seneca/Blackfoot heritage. Susan is the woman in the middle of the
photo on the left, in between her friends Maria and Libby. The photo on
the right is Susan reading this poem to Dariel and her daughter Sue.