Beauty Belly

“Toward the end of the dance, the adolescent girl or girls (who have very recently had their first menstruation) jump up and look into the interior of a large abalone shell. ‘You look into it to see what you can see. See the future, see the beauty. Maybe, maybe you can see the beauty of your future,’ he laughed (Merve George Sr). The colors of the shell, Merv told me, do indeed matter, as they are part of how the vision the girls see unfolds.”
~ Les Field, “Abalone Tales”*

Sand between toes
and ocean waves lapping
sea foam forming somersaults,
dancing with wind
and knowing freedom
in its truest sense.

Salty kisses from ocean spray
still linger in my mind
from that day.

That day, I looked to the water
and knew it was time to let go
of the old.

The scent
of sanctuary
as I held my belly
and surrendered
to the water
what I thought
I should be
or should do;
“it is up to you,”
she said. Waves crashing,
my belly releasing expectations
and ornery delegations
of decisions
and limiting strategies
into the ocean’s motion.

The barrenness, the drought
I felt
when I let it all go
was momentary.
She filled me up, that endless
pulse of lunar licking.

But the banshees tried to call to me
from dark corners
I was told not to look into
like silent graveyards
humming with trapped ghosts;
cryptic kleshas clouded clues
to the me I knew
was in there,
somewhere. They didn’t like that I was
making room
for something of which they didn’t approve.

But, I knew I wanted to look into the abalone
and see beauty.
I wanted my community
to watch me
in my early teens
as I looked into that half-shell
with soft eyes and heart swell
knowing that my belly
was also rainbow silver iridescent………………beauty
reflected in beauty
of swirling pools of shining silver,
forever dreaming into being
and reminding me:

the ancient is in motion,
sand saltate,
time tumble,
sun sparkle,
the ancient is in motion —
in you
in me
in the mirror belly of the abalone.

*”Abalone Tales” was a joint effort between anthropologist Les Field and the great people of coastal California: Mattole, Pomo, Wiyot, Hupa, Karuk, Yurok, Ohlone, Esselen, and Tolowa. May their memories, ways, and rights live on…

November 20, 2010 — Part of my unraveling as a woman is to make note and honor the ways and traditions of the people who have not completely lost touch with significant, symbolic ways to relate to rights and shifts in a woman’s life. This poem is an attempt to capture the process of letting go of the old ways to make room for the ancestral wisdom that is stowed away in all our memories…just waiting for the moment to be acknowledged and welcomed into the everyday dream world we create with each other. Can we make room for the simplicity of beauty?

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