THE EARTH AND I ARE ONE
Out of the layers of stars,
one star whose fragrance fills the wind
Out of the layers of air,
the sun, our brother, flies.
We are wrapped in his wings.
His golden glance hurls us spiraling
In dawn light we walk gratefully
in a living world.
The living wind breathes us,
moves in and out,
spins in and out, up and
through spaces in the blue,
spaces where the fading stars twinkle back.
Shadows lengthen and grow bold.
The day unwinds his hair
and sets out on the open road.
Each day, a new vision,
clouds and ravines,
blue wind and buds.
Now grasses, blue, green,
jolt us with their reach,
pushing through the leafmold
to tremble with the urgent energy
of their soft
These grasses beguile the geese
Now let us rest in their long touch,
let their delight shimmer over us,
until we too unfurl ourselves
through this living world.
Under a blaze of maples,
under birches shaking their catlins,
under white pines massive buoyancy,
over strawberries ripening,
over these hills echoing
with buds and gusts of rain,
let us walk gratefully in this living
ROBERTA HILL WHITEMAN (1947). Roberta Hill Whiteman, a poet of Wisconsin Oneida heritage, tribe that was forced to scatter throughout various parcels of land in the United States and Canada. is the author of Philadelphia Flowers: Poems (1996) and Star Quilt (1984), a poetry collection which integrates her ancestral culture with European-based approaches to verse. A sense of dispossession engendered by forced migration has long been a part of Oneida culture, and this attitude is evident in Whiteman's poetry. The selections in Star Child are centered around the concepts of six basic directions—north, south, east, west, the sky, and the earth. Whiteman credits the influence of other contemporary Native American writers as well as her musician father and well-read grandmother for instilling her work with its own rhythms and confidence. Whiteman stated: "For most of my life I felt this sense of exile and alienation and a fear.... But there is this sense of home and of completeness that I also feel. Somehow I think that part of the writing is to set the record straight—for myself, to explain things for myself as if I were still a child inside." Her poems weave nature into human experience, enhancing the reader's own respect for and identity with nature. Her style of relating small things with great ones is one quality of Roberta's work that draws in the reader and connects her/him with the poem's subjects. Whiteman writes and speaks with a deeply affecting honesty about her experiences as a Native American woman, experiences that are inseparable from the struggles of her people. Whiteman's poetry captures the slow movement from painful experiences of racism and anger toward a vision of hope, a dialogue with a more positive future.