Love poems for Ishi

Ishi looks through photographic eyes

He would send his memories

up to heaven

but they will not leave him

until he sheds the body

that traps him here


Ishi wakes up in a world

not his own

The sun and stars

are the same

but the colors on the land

are false

the voice of the wind

tells lies

teasing him with tongues

that are almost familiar

the water does not come

from the earth in this world

and the animals hang dead on the walls



I would have embellished

your pierced ears

with twentieth-century kisses

and quail feathers,

filled your totem bag

with ancient poems

and datura seeds


your face

open like a snake lily

under a naked moon

your torso

thick as oak

twice as strong

ten times as old

your hands

spread out to the sky

intimate with the earth

holding the spirits

of pure time




Ishi will sit for the camera

he might even look it

in the eye

He has given up

too much to care

if the camera steals

what’s left of his soul


Ishi’s bare feet

feel the fish in the creek

the way rattlesnake feels

footsteps on the land

naked toes plumb the earth

the way tree roots

claw for water

bare feet on lava rocks

none leaving off

where the other began

I look for your eyes


in the eyes of strangers


but I am told

you won’t be back

so I have stopped looking


I ask and answer questions

of what might have been

wild and alive


traveling otherworldly trails

where conquerors

can’t go


the depth of your eyes

will keep me wild

for eternity




Ishi gives the new world

his full embrace

with the grasp of

a true surrealist

the focus

of a survivor

bones showing through

the skin of his hands

reaching behind him

to shake the hand

of death.



copyright Kimberly White   2004

published in Suisun Valley Review



Collage Art