Back In Hopiland
p r o l o g u e

During our 2001 cross-country family trip, our modes of transportation were a 33-foot trailer attached to a Ford Expedition for one month and then by a mini-van for the remaining 2 months. Our many exciting and spiritual experiences were detailed in a journal and a 2004 book of poetry and digital photographs, Driving Towards the Sunset.

During our journey, we were particularly fascinated by and enthralled with the customs, lifestyle, and artwork and deeply held religious convictions and rituals of the Hopi Indian people in Arizona. This love of their culture was explored in some of the poems and photographs that appeared in the book.

For the next two years, we kept in touch with some friends we had made on the reservation. We were told about and invited to attend the Bean Dances held in February 2003. This very sacred and special time of year a celebration of the return of the Kachinas from the San Francisco Peaks in Flagstaff for the spring planting.

What a rare opportunity for our family! We love to travel, preferably by automobile. Even though flying is the quickest from of transportation, it is our least favorite. So, after careful consideration and romanticizing about trains, we decided that in order to take a month-long trip, reach our western destination as quickly as possible and still experience the beauty of our country, we chose to travel via Amtrak to Winslow, Arizona. There, we rented a car and split our month between a time-share we owned in Flagstaff and a motel at the Hopi Cultural Center on the Hopi Indian Reservation.

The dichotomy of the reality of train travel soon set in. The scenery was beautiful, even breathtaking in some places. But any romantic vision was replaced by 3 days of unsuccessfully attempting to sleep in a berth that felt like a “sardine can”, taking showers and peeing in the same space and being tossed about the train hallways like a “Raggedy Andy Doll”.

Once we arrived at the time-share in Flagstaff, I was stressed out and exhausted. This resulted in the most severe case of hemorrhoids I ever had. So bad, that I scheduled to have them surgically excised in Phoenix. A snowstorm prevented me from following through. I healed enough so that we could travel to the reservation, sit somewhat comfortably on a pillow on a bench and watch the Bean Dances with my family.

These experiences and my deeper relationship with the Hopi people are shared in this book of poems called Return To Hopiland.

Back In Hopiland

Southwest Chief

Symphony Of Peace

The Journey Back To Hopiland

Zuni Fetish Called Poverty

Back In Hopiland

My son chases after his friends,
climbs up mesa cliffs,
catches cookies from Kachinas,
plays baseball on rock and sand.

I am back in Hopiland.
I know that it’s true because
my enlightened soul giggles,
my happy heart drums.

We inhale unpolluted air
mixed with sweet cedar scent
that billows from chimneys in valleys.
Separation between heaven and earth is indistinguishable.

Multitude of hue is mesmerizing.
Mountain stratum is magnificent.
Red rock seems to erupt,
pours beauty into my eyes.

Clouds stripe pure white against blue sky.
Magic, mystery, all around.
Hawks soar across mystical canyons.
Sunsets fill horizons with red, yellow, orange, purple glows.

Nearly 65 miles away, snow-capped, cloud-draped,
San Francisco Peaks behave unlike any other landmass.
Three peaks chase wherever you go,
like portraits whose eyes follow every move.

Wind gusts shake snow off summits.
Pale mist seems like steam rising off icy lakes.
Wherever you go, this holy mountain beckons,
welcomes you into its lacy lair.

Wind blows over desert bloom,
whips tumbleweed cross highways.
Sand squalls resemble creeping fog
biting through smooth stone.

Thick quartz layers coat corneas.
Tiny particles seep into skin,
melt into clothing.
I chew sand, it tastes delicious.

Moons rise between mountains,
hide behind horizontal haze.
I can almost touch craters.
My spirit devours crystal beams of light.

Southwest Chief

We are on the Amtrak headed south to Manhattan.
The Hudson River is a frozen block of twilight.
Ice Cutters have created a narrow path that
winds south to the Ocean.

Dots of lighted factories and houses
reflect white shadows of shoreline
that seem to float in the window,
like fractured fragments of futility.

From Grand Central Station, another train takes us to Chicago.
We board the Southwest Chief heading to LA.
While sitting on the observation deck,
strangers surround me with tales of their travels.

I never thought I would say this, but I miss my RV.
Anything is better than traveling on a sleeper train.
Our berth is the size of a large sardine can.
The sun never shines inside the cabin.

You can’t open windows unless it’s an emergency.
You can’t breathe the recycled air.
The incessant clanking noise
licks your eardrums clean of any beautiful sounds you may remember.

There is this smell that proliferates the hallways of this outhouse on wheels.
The toilets are all connected to the common “black water” holding tank.
When you flush, either by closing the seat down or pushing a button,
there is a bang, then the woosh sound of a vacuum cleaner.
You are afraid that you may be sucked into the unknown.

You roll and bounce back and forth, and up and down
past beautiful mountain and water vistas,
rolling stubbles of corn and wheat,
endless farmland with silos dotting the hillsides,
small towns overflowing with porches, abandoned cars and churches,
sections of cities where factories, junkyards and garbage dumps form the landscape.

States pass by as if picture postcards
are pasted to the window.
Bushes spring from the hillsides of brown,
flat, brush and trees blackened by recent fires.
Irrigation channels border old family farms.
Barbed wire fences encircle horse and cattle ranches.

Endless piles of rolled and stacked hay
red rocks, adobes and small towns
are interspersed with tracks covered with devastating poverty,
piles of junk and abandoned cars.

While I attempt to walk the narrow corridors and dining car,
through the coach section to the dining car,
I feel as if I am on a County Fair’s funhouse ride
where the metal floors keeps moving under your feet.

I am being thrown around a small metal box,
like a yo yo or a raggedy Andy ragdoll,
or a punch drunk prizefighter going down for the count.
I walk like a duck, side to side, against doors and chairs.

Our fellow travelers are an exotic mix of
poor inner city families and Hell’s Kitchen hoodlums,
"regular folk" who are afraid to fly during these terrorist times,
college students on Spring break visiting their parents,
kids and chaperones on a junior high school class tour to “The Big Apple,”
born-again Christians ministering to one another
with Halleluyahs and Praise the Lords.

The meals, now that’s a sad, sad, story.
The food ain’t too bad,
the people who serve you are super,
but the menu is quite limited.

Being a vegetarian is never easy,
but on the Amtrack train,
a good meal is even more difficult to attain.
Vegetable lasagna with a red cream sauce is served for lunch and dinner.

Instead of continuing to Flagstaff,
we get off the train in Winslow.
The porter tells us that in 25 years
no one has ever gotten off the train in Winslow.
We step down the stairs into the darkness,
cross the tracks, and begin our adventure.

The next day, in downtown Flagstaff, the traffic stops
at the intersection of Route 66 and San Francisco Avenue.
The bells ring.
The red lights blink.
The railroad crossing gates close.
The train whistle blows.
The BANF Freight train glides down the tracks.

Symphony Of Peace

I am listening to a CD called “Prayer For Peace.”
It is a compilation of Native American Music.
I think, how can a people so ill-treated,
nearly annihilated in their own land,
still manage to create such rich and beautiful music,
dedicated to peace within us all,
and peace on earth for us all.

The high smooth pitch of the flute,
replaces the loud blaring blast of the gun.

The deep echo beating of the drum
drowns out the exploding bang of the bomb.

The wail scale of the guitar
overshadows the wails of grieving mothers.

The ethereal timbre of the violin
squeezes anger into acceptance.

The soothing resonance of the cello
reaches into the deaf ears of rulers.

The trumpets pierce the hate
and the trombones ring out prejudice.

The melodic tinkling of the piano
trickles like the first spring waterfall.

The soft harmony of children’s voices
drowns the loud cries of attack.

The bloodstained steel of the silver sword
melts into puddles reflecting rays of sunlight.

If you listen in the silence you can hear
the sun rising over the meadow,
the corn breaking through the soil,
the flower opening its petals to the sky,
the spider weaving its web,
the fawn lifting to its feet,
the kitten being licked clean.

When there is music everywhere,
the composers are the visionaries,
the poets are the leaders,
the painters are the generals,
the children are the keepers of truth,
the only hunger is felt before breakfast,
the only food grown is organic,
the only rifles bought are by antique collectors,
the only songs sung are songs of peace,
the only books written are books of love,
the only stories told are tales of hope,
there is no hell on earth,
heaven is in a baby’s eyes.

The Journey Back To Hopiland

I am sitting in a Starbucks.
Two girls and a guy are drinking coffee and playing cards.
One girl is tall, thin, and is wearing braces.
The other girl is blonde, fat, and is wearing glasses.
The boy is short, has a goatee, and is wearing a ski-cap.

A woman in a gold-stained leather coat and a matching fur hat
walks in with a black and white cocker spaniel.
Outside, a female dog walker walks three dogs,
their leashes entangle her ankles like snakes,
as they leave three lines of pee flowing to the curb.

I am reminded why I am here.
Today we begin our journey back to Hopiland.
I am not sure why we are drawn back to that place.
Is it the mountains? Is it the people? Is it the history? Is it the spirit?

It is more likely that we’d be drawn to Israel,
our homeland, the land of Abraham, Issac and Jacob.
Yet as Jews, it is not surprising that we
relate to a people who have suffered greatly and survived.

In this world where war, hate and violence are too often the answer,
these “people of peace” live in a community
centered around their strong religious beliefs,
their agriculture and their art.

I am attracted to their ”center of the world,”
where their tongues speak in a language of simplicity,
where I know I won’t see a mink coat or a Mercedes,
where I can feel the elders drums beating in my heart.

where I can sense children’s voices singing in my soul,
where I can hear the silence of sunsets,
where the full moon breaks into shadows on the mountains,
where my spirit soars back into the ancient tunnels,
where I am healed again.

Zuni Fetish Called Poverty

On the Zuni Reservation, we stop to shop
at the “All Tribe Trading Post.”
Nick offers us a cup of coffee.
He is slick and slimy.
His girlfriend sits behind the register,
polishing her long nails,
smiling pretty for the customers.
They are obviously not Native Americans.

We ask about a small Zuni fetish.
The white and brown bear is carved from quartz.
The sun god symbol,
created from turquoise, mother of pearl and coral,
is attached to the stone.
Polished to perfection,
it shines in the display case.

We ask, “What does this fetish cost?
He answers, “$125”,
but for you, including tax and four free arrowheads, $100.
We buy it, walk out, and get into the car.
We watch a man who had been carving stones in the parking lot,
walk through the back door.
He gives Nick a bag full of his life.
Nick hands him a $5 bill.

This ancient art of exploitation
is handed down from father to son.
Its mouth is agape like a hungry child.
Its eyes are opened wide in begging posture.
Its paws are outstretched in prayer position.
A small cross is embedded in the heart line.