As I ascend, snakes that coil my iron cap
Begin to pool and gulp
A mare’s well-spend blood.
When I near the uppermost limb
Smooth-beaked spirits lung for my throat:
But my mast holds;
Sails taut through pitch and pull,
A shoulder bone my keel.
Moored to the star-seamed bark,
I let the other’s illness flow
Through well-woven rays of my cloak’s sun;
Bright hands of its moon.
That spirit’s soot and grim
Twists against my staff: venom splashing
From the scales of its mane; bulge
Of its fang-staved neck.
I leap forward, drum harder; dance
Up cloud-steps, mist-rungs; higher,
Air thinning, brightening;
My craft the drum’s skin;
The skin of my hand,
My spirits twist loose
From medallions of hawk and owl;
From a mountain-shaped pendant
The width of a dream;
From my cloak’s hem.
My spirits descend,
Shaped as cymbals, whistles; shimmer
From hollows of my club’s spikes;
Appear as shells,
We pry open the feverous mouth; I grasp
A sharp-toothed cord
Coiling the tongue; rip it loose,
Freeing the soul.
Soul in hand, I climb
A cloud-studded ladder; my spirits return
To root and leaf.
Soul restored to body, I awake
As her eyes open; cured.
Blood that brimmed a pine-scented bowl
Has dried. The mare’s heart, praised
For breadth and weight, beats
Within my sky-blue drum.