The Sweat Lodge, As I Know It

by Steve Meador
FreeWrights Peer Review
Honorable Mention, June 2009
Judged by Duncan Mercredi

My tub is aligned east-west,
this is vital to my health.
When the world turns to shit
my bones quiver, try to shoot
through braided muscle and skin;
my synapses won’t pop and snap
and my mind needs a meeting
of its minds. I draw the hottest
water a human can survive,
without turning edible, and step
into the tub from the east. I sprinkle
salts on my shoulders, inhale steam
that carries the dream of sweetgrass,
chant meaningless sounds. I build
a scarecrow inside myself, ravens
and sparrows flee my body. Circling
buzzards disappear. Hawks pluck
snakes from my ears. I push out sweat
until emptiness fills my pores, then exit
from the west side of the tub.
In the mirror fog there is a man
the color of red clay, a warrior,
my grandmother mentioned him;
he was her grandfather.