Bear Butte

I see Bear Butte in the distance

Red stone reveals its heated origins

The dormant volcano

The capitol dome of Dakota

Sacred mountain of the Lakota

A church with a conical spire

Sweat lodge confessionals at its base

Kneel before Bear Butte, pray for forgiveness

I am sinner

I am savior

I am hope

I am horror

I am problem, solution, and absolution

Bear Butte makes intentions known

I climb to the pinnacle through jagged slag heaps

I tie my red, black, white, and yellow prayer flags to the wind-worn boughs of a pine

I hear the flags flap in the frigid gale

My prayers are carried to the east, to the new day

All prayers go toward the sun because it offers faith in tomorrow

I eat a Power Bar on the peak, an apt communion on this altar

I see the four corners of the Upper Missouri Country

The land is so just

Reap what you sow

Plant feudalism and inequity and harvest it in abundance

Fill the silos with missiles

Pack the feedlots with repression

Then grow fat, filthy, and violent

I walk down from the mountain

I am not Moses, thank God

I don’t have any tablets with the answers

I remain ignorant, unknown, unknowable

As I am meant to be

A mystery man

I know so little, I want to know so much

Arrogance and insecurity or wonderment and imagination

My intentions flutter in the breeze at the apex

I did this for her, that she may know peace

My prayers are in the jet stream, circling the cardinal directions

The flapping flags, a reminder that the prayers are aloft

At the foot of the mountain I enter the sweat lodge to partake in Inipi


All my glaring inadequacies are shown to myself and Bear Butte

I pray for her in the womb of the earth

I am warm, safe, fetal, grounded so deep

I am crouched over myself, knees to chest, hands around shins, chin tucked in

I am untouchable

Flags hang down from the lodge ceiling

I feel ancient

The elders are here

I pray I am not an interloper

A white, privileged male accepted as son

Thank you

Out of the ground they come

All of us huddled together

No sight, no taste, no feel, only the sound of the mountain’s heartbeat welling up from below

Boom, boom, boom!

Steady, strong, old

I pray for her

Only good intentions, nothing in return

I pray four times, to each direction

Now I know the prayers will surely encircle her

I pray for my intentions, my life as one long intention

It is all I can decide to act upon

Keep on the red road, the road to the sun, to the new day

Why did you pick me elders?

This is odd for me

I am afraid of what it means

But then I remember

I am older than me

I am part of Bear Butte

I too welled up from below

I think of my intentions

I remember the mountain

I see the flags there

My prayers held up by the wind

I am the prayer flags, I am the mountain, I am the wind

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