Tim Gamble

First Nations

He made the drum from skin and wood,
and the old songs, and the dancing,
and all the full store of his art,
and he held it in his two hands.
He crouched, and spoke low down
under his breath, as a shaman,
and the young boy, watching,
was entranced.

He knew the pathways of the high hills,
and the making of the stars,
and the meanings of the flights of birds
across the great lake:
and in the dead of the long night,
waiting for daybreak,
he sang for the empty land
and the old wars.

He stood in the long shadows
with the gun on his arm,
and the song of his old blood
rising on the wind.
He bent to touch the Earth,
and turned to look behind,
then he walked into the trees,
and a bird called the alarm.

He worked the store in summer,
in a pull off from the highway
heading north, to the escarpment
and the unceded lands, and the wide sky.
He sold the furs, and polished stones,
and pieces to remember by,
and he saw in the faces of strangers
the ending of days.

I watched him in the streetcar
in the late evening.
He was dancing in the gangway
with a bedroll at his feet.
He shook his head and cursed,
and his breaking heart beat
time, and he held his bottle closer
in the dreaming.

Tim Gamble lives in the middle of England, looking for answers in science and stories and other out-of-the-way places. He is a teacher in the old school. He paints and writes and used to sing. He sets great store by old and unregarded things.