Poem: from Being of Water

This is a poem from my book, Being of Water. The italicized words are from my teachers, Richard Bugbee and Jane Thing Dumas. They are talking about the ways of learning to be respectful of all.






you didn’t ask questions

you were with others & watched & picked things up

something took, your skill

the one you watched eventually saying, here, & begins

to show you how


as a kid looking through the willow branches

the bear dancers’


was what you might come to know


my father was in construction in the 50s

so that’s what i did

now i call it destruction

now i work with plants


make willow and tule huts





i worry about the people, especially when

someone says they have diabetes

we don’t say “my diabetes”

it’s like a stray dog coming to your door

it’s not yours

i say, “i’m going to take my survival pill”


the ones who knew how and when

to set the fires

and the ceremonialists


no one knows how now




what was hidden from you as a kid



through the willow boughs




my mother helping my husband who came back

from the war with malaria

the doctors said he’d need pills

the rest of his life


we’ve lost a lot but not everything


she wouldn’t tell me

about her healing

she’d say go get

that plant


she’d say come in

even when we only had tortillas

in the house


she’d help you heal


we would have to go to school

my uncle thought it was important

to have an education

because we would need it


we didn’t know in the 20s

how the land’s face

would change


i’d have to work on ranches

if i hadn’t gone to school


ranch to ranch


became an assembly worker at honeywell

then asked to

be a community health worker

so i did

and waitress


i’d hug an adult who was sick

and saw them feel better

it helped the medicine take effect


certain parts of our body go to sleep

if we don’t give them attention


another uncle told us to be respectful

it was 1933 and we were fooling around

we didn’t know what he meant

when he said we would need it

and then in a few years the next world war came





why are rattlesnakes woven into the baskets?

to keep out the rodents





Copyright (c) Julia Doughty