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Courtot, Martha (1941-2000)

Tribe. San Francisco, CA: Pearlchild, 1977.

Journey. San Francisco, CA: Pearlchild, 1977

Tribes. Browerville, Minn. : Ox Head Press, 1990

The bird escapes. Sebastopol, CA (P.O. Box 2455, Sebastopol 95473): Earthy Mama Press, 2001.

"Tribe" by Martha Courtot

You say to us: if this is a tribe, why do you never stay still?
Why do you meet only long enough to exchange
stones, shells, feathers, amulets?
Why can you pass through the center only
alone and in absolute darkness?

You say, if this is a tribe, what is the giver language?
What is its name, who belongs?
You challenge our assumptions.
You say, what kind of people is
always on the road, alone,
only speaking to each other in crisis,
at connecting points,
in crowded intersections in dying cities,
in drugstores
in small towns where no one knows your name,
and then dispersal?

This is our answer: our language is poetry. Do you understand?
Our language is signs, symbols, sacred objects:
we are sacred people.
We have magical properties.
There are many things to be done,
people to be healed, houses to be built.
It is not a time to be together.
It is a time to be separate,
to learn what it means to be alone.

We tell you this: we are doing the impossible.
We are teaching ourselves to be human.
When we are finished,
the strands which connect us
will be unbreakable; already
we are stronger than we have ever been...

Thus we move: silently, separately;
our name is buried in various sacred spots all over the land.
We are waiting until it is safe to claim it.
Though we move silently, separate,

can you hear our joint voices singing,
singing our women's songs in ever widening circles? 

Listen. We are making ready.
Hear our music across the dying land...

from Tribes by Martha Courtot, published by Pearlchild Press.
This poem was also printed in a cookbook published by the Bloodroot Collective.