Tsankawi: teaching a human to talk

I petition the quiet darkness for sleep

In this cheap motel in this small city

All missing


Instead, thoughts whirling

My mind listens, still

Voices unexpected and powerful



Yesterday in dreamtime

(Beetle’s written words inscribed

Rosetta Wood - in partial jest -

Opens the inanimate)

I sat in ruins

Of ancient pueblo kiva

Scree of cut tuff

Shaped by human hand

Then by wind for so much longer

Upon this mesa’s table


In such short time sitting

(I thought a stone was slow, 

But the crafted hand enables)

Stones tell me power

Biographies of making 

Large blocks, once easy to lift

(Now weighed down by history)

Enabled height

Most grey-white light,

Rare connective stones

Carried from elsewhere

Finish construction’s ceremony

Uniting peoples across valleys


This strewn rubble now

Offered pictures of round tall domes

Stretched out and up unto the sky

But “Open, Open”

This human word amidst the images

Carefully spoke in emphasis

Counteracts history’s propositions


Human words confirm but little

By then lost in trance

Stone has told the story

Added construction

Linking earth to sky


This mesa’s role, at least

In limited imagination

A free way to travel

Joint ceremonial grounds

Retreats from other wars

To speak of peace

Propitiation place for gods indeed

Cast offerings of pottery the toll

(Imported Indigenous understandings

Misapplied perhaps)


Later we sit in carved out caves

Humming and thrumming

Summer and winter houses

For humans and food

Living art for everyday

(Kiva stone is not replaced

Crafted for the sacred

Built for ceremonial speech)

Later still human feet rock

Stone’s rhythm to the ground.




Pre-dawn, I pad softly on the motel floor

Dry cracked heels catch the carpet

Stone’s powerful voice

Fills my thoughts, denies me sleep

But not these dreams

The white dust settles



All that remains are words

Pale reflections

Of these tongues of stone.

Tamsin Kerr 2019