The thirty-three poems in this slim volume are united by a simple belief – poetry should not be insular, but should at least attempt to speak to a wider world. On the Roofs of Zion rejects meaninglessness, nihilism, and relativism. At their core, its poems affirm that there is purpose in life, transcendent truth in reality, and meaning that a poet can and should articulate – for as Ty Bard says in the poem ‘Self-Defense,’ we are not merely “dying animals” but are also “orphans of sentience sent from the heavenlies.” Ty Bard’s poems are traditionalist in approach, but not rigid in application. They are not overtly formal or strict in adherence to metrics. If the poetry of the traditionalist movement of the early 20th century is viewed as sculptural or architectural in form and meter, then the structure of Mr. Bard’s poetry is best described as organic. Rather than form imposed upon a poem, the form grows from the poem - a sprout germinating from a seed of poetic thought, diction, and rhythm. It is Mr. Bard’s assertion that the pattern which thus emerges from a poem is analogous to and reflective of the pattern which, when sought, appears from the multitudinous and seemingly random events of existence. Form and pattern in his poetry is therefore a non-verbal testimonial to the transcendent order within creation which is the thematic essence of On the Roofs of Zion.
This excerpt is from 'entangled with the observer.' Schrodinger's cat is a reference to a famous thought experiment in which a cat is locked in a box with a vial of poison which is broken when a Geiger counter detects the decay of a radioactive atom. The theory of superposition would say the particle was simultaneously in a state of decay or non-decay until acted upon by an observer - thus the cat would be both alive and dead until an observer actually opened the box and by the act of observation collapsed the superposition into decay or non-decay state and thus determined the life or death of the feline in the box.
This excerpt is from the beginning of the first verse of L'Chayim. The last line is a reference to string theory, the arcane theory in quantum physics in which particles are replaced by one-dimensional 'strings' whose vibrations correspond to various putative higher dimensions and create the 'observable' particles and forces in quantum physics. The theory is believed to present the possibility of a theory of everything in which quantum field theory and general relativity are unified - however, at least at present, the theory remains largely untestable and is thought my some to be a scientific equivalent to navel gazing.
This snippet is from Fallen in a Forest of Lesser Trees. Although Alexander crossed the Indus, he never crossed the Ganges - but it had been his desire to do so. The reference to Tyre is interesting for it is a famed fulfillment of Biblical prophecy - In Biblical times, the city of Tyre was on the coast - the scriptures predicted that Tyre would be destroyed so throughly that the earth would be scrapped clean of it ruins like a dinner plate. Although the original city was destroyed, for many years it seemed the prophecy was incorrect for the ruins remained. Then along comes Alexander. Tyre had been rebuilt on a island across from the original mainland city. Tyre refused to submit to Alexander and Alexander used the ruins of mainland Tyre to build a causeway to the island to capture the island city - by so doing he scrapped the earth clear of the ruins of the original mainland Tyre and thus fulfilled the Biblical prophecy.
These lines are from Lucy's Bones, the last line refers to a trap where a monkey sticks his hand into a jar to retrieve a piece of fruit but the opening is too small for the monkey to extract his hand without letting go of the fruit - unwilling to relinquish the fruit - the monkey is trapped.
This snippet is from 'Grasping Esau's Heel.' Language initiated lying and because of mankind's nature they are inextricably bound. The image is from the Biblical story of the birth of Jacob and Esau. Esau was delivered with Jacob holding his heel - as if they were striving with each other to be the first born.In ancient cultures, the first born received the lion's share of blessing and inheritance. Esau, though firstborn was a carnal man who sold his birthright for a bowl of porridge. Jacob was a lier and deceiver who tricked his father into bestowing his blessing upon him instead of upon the elder son. Yet, Jacob was spiritually minded and was redeemed and so became Israel. So it is with words - they are inherently carnal and by their nature filled with falsehood but can be redeemed by aligning with spiritual things and being constrained by morals - and thus serve divine purposes.
For thousands of years, the Keepers of the Adjik Hata have preserved the White Path of the covenant with Ofvngv,but now the Spanish attempt to forcibly convert the Adjik Hata. Mvhvlv, the last Keeper, dispatches his tvbalv, Little Bird, with a secret message to Emperor Brim and entrusts to his niece, Morning Light, a strand of medicine beads containing the ancient lore of the Adjik Hata. As her uncle perishes, Morning Light flees the ruin of a burning chapel with the beads to seek out Hiram at Ocmulgee. But war is brewing, so Hiram sends Morning Light to the unlikely haven of Charleston. As Morning Light struggles to adapt to the strange, new ways of the whites, Little Bird is drawn into the brutal Apalachee raids by his desire for vengeance and the machinations of Emperor Brim. During the war, Little Bird discovers a dark sorcerer and a Fallen Hiyaulgee instigated the destruction of the Adjik Hata to seize the beads, annihilate The People of One Fire, and usher in an age of darkness and corruption unseen since the Adjik Hata shut the way between the worlds. In the shattering aftermath of battle, Little Bird is directed to Ocmulgee. Meanwhile, Morning Light, troubled by dreams of tragedy for her adoptive family and destruction of the beads, is also urged back to Ocmulgee. Will they uncover the answers they desperately seek – or a destiny more wondrous and perilous than any they could envision?
White feather's on the cane wand signified a messenger from a white town - the wand was never to touch the ground - this is why Little Bird made sure he rested it on the top of his foot. It was customary to offer sofkee,a corn gruel, as refreshment to a visitor and white drink as a sign of friendship to an envoy. The Coweta were famously said to be white on one side and red on the other. Hitchiti and Coweta had differing versions of the origins of the sacred fire. The black drink peace was the peace made between the Apalachee and Coweta when the Coweta entered the southeast. Travelers with no where else to stay often slept in the roundhouse.
This excerpt is taken from the notes section of the appendix in Trekking to Ocmulgee. They are self-explanatory but provide the reader with the generally accepted factual background of the story and of any variation from that accepted 'history' within the story.
Bubble title echoes sentiments expressed by Peaches later in the story. Although in some native cultures, personal vision quests were expected - among southeastern cultures - the mindset was that the spirit realms were best left to those specially trained to deal with it. In short, the belief was that spirit realms were fraught with danger and not something with which to trifle. The giant eagle like being and horned serpent in the scene represent the upper and lower realms respectively. The highest level of the upper realm is the realm of pure spirit and order while the lowest level of the lower world is chaotic. The upper and lower worlds are often in opposition - however, the lower world should not be necessarily considered evil. Rather it provides the change and dissolution required for the continuance of physical existence.The lower world, and the beings of it, ideally serve the Most High and indeed, at its most powerful and purified the horned serpent becomes the winged serpent which can freely move through upper, middle, and lower worlds through the eight strands which bind the worlds together. But the eagle like being and horned serpent are not symbols - they are spirit which can either be in obedience or rebellion to the will of the Most High.
This excerpt is from Chapter One. In it Mvhvlv is preparing Morning Light to be the Keeper of the ancient medicine beads of the Adjik Hata. As part of the ritual, he blows tobacco smoke upon her - some might erroneously believe he is smudging her; he is not. Smudging has entered into mainstream consciousness - most know smudging is burning of herbs to clear, remove, or cleanse negative thoughts, energies, or spirits from an area, object, or person. In the southeast, the most traditional herbs used in smudging were cedar leaves, lobelia inflata, and rabbit tobacco. However, few non-native people understand the use of tobacco smoke blown over a person or object. It is not usually used as a smudge, but rather it is used to bestow a blessing on or sanctify the person or object upon which the smoke is blown.
This excerpt from Chapter Two about mustering the camp for the impending raid upon the Apalachees is chock full of cultural info. The Choctaws had bone-pickers who prepared the bones for reburial by picking the remaining flesh from the bones.They were known by the long fingernails on one hand used in their endeavors. The blow-up between Little Bird and the Oconee war leader dramatizes the disdain which red-sticks felt towards white-sticks. However, even white towns had warriors - so the aloofness bordering on contempt between red and white stick was more of a rivalry between the different orientations of their respective Mother Town. Little Bird's guilt over rudeness to the war leader illustrates the respect in which Muskogees held elders. The banter between Little Bird and Akake refers to the myth of Mother Duck stomping the earth brought up from the water pat it dry. The shuffling steps of Stomp dancing are reminders of Mother Duck's patting the earth dry - incidentally, the earth of the Square is kept bare dirt to represent the earth as it was when first brought up from the water. Hopoyetly is the English approximation of Emperor Brim's Muskogee name. The Ark was a wooden box containing sacred medicine bundles. It had dedicated attendees and was never to touch the ground.
In this scene, Morning Light is recounting her flight from the burning chapel and describes the 'death paint' of the elders - the white color of the paint was from crushed galena. Although red ochre was frequently used as face paint for warriors and in death rituals for them - the crushed galena was used for the same purposes for medicine people or chiefs or elders of white towns.
One marriage tradition required the groom to formerly present a deer hide to the mother or Clan Mother of the bride to symbolically demonstrate that he could provide for and protect his wife and children. As representatives of the deer, the blessing and intercession of the Deer Clan with the deer must thus be sought so that the union would be blessed.
In one myth, the Creator has promised he will give the sun to provide light for the earth. Because they can fly, the little birds are the first creatures to see the sun - on the edge of the horizon, far off across the waters. They immediately give thanks and praise to the Creator for the gift of the sun and are rewarded for their praise and gratitude with their beautiful song. (For a fuller telling of this tale and the larger myth of which it is a part look for the highlighted post on my fan page at https://www.facebook.com/SpokenWorldSeries P.S. - while you're there, please like the page
On the surface, the first sentence of the Prologue may seem to be merely descriptive. But to a Muskogee Creek (or most any other southeastern native of the time) the scene would indicate something was very wrong. Although men cleared new fields and might help at planting or harvesting and although elder men and boys might be found working in the fields or garden plots - not seeing women there would be a sign of something very wrong for women were in charge of and responsible for most agricultural work. Thus, the very first sentence of the Prologue depicts a world out of kilter.
Vsse is the Muskogee word for tea and is applied to the ceremonial drink of the Muskogees. It is brewed from the leaves of the Yaupon (Gulf Holly.) The tea made from the Yaupon leaves was used as a ceremonial drink in rituals of peace, friendship, or purification. To Muskogees, white symbolized peace, friendship, and purity so the Yaupon tea was called the 'White Drink.' Another reason it was called the 'White Drink' by Muskogees involved the preparation of the tea. Once the tea was brewed, it was poured back and forth between serving pots as it cooled enough to drink without scalding. The back and forth transfer between pots produced a white frothy head of foam on the tea - thus, the name, 'White Drink.' However, because of the tea's dark appearance, traders referred to the tea as the 'Black Drink.' The aforementioned is why in 'Trekking to Ocmulgee,' Muskogee characters call the tea, the 'White Drink,' and whites call it the 'Black Drink.'
In this snippet, Peaches is speaking to Morning Light about the similarities and differences between white people and Muskogees. The red ant would have had a special significance to a Muskogee because the red ant symbolized a tribal mindset and along with the wasps and other little creatures knitted Mother Turtle's broken shell back together. (Like a face in a cloud, an image of an ant can often be seen on the scoots of a turtle shell.) The red ant described is not the fire ant - the fire ant is a recent invasive species into the Southeast - I can remember when I was a child a time before the invasion of fire ants. Unfortunately, the ancient indigenous red ant described by Peaches has been nigh exterminated by the fire ants since my childhood.
Mvhvlv perishes in the Prologue but his presence is felt throughout 'Trekking to Ocmulgee.' His death initiates the story and propels Morning Light and Little Bird along their paths. His presence and ongoing influence on characters is shown by how frequently various characters quote him. Mvhvlv is the common thread connecting much of the plot and many of the characters. In a symbolic way, he serves as an instrument in the hands of God for revealing the divine purpose in the lives of the characters.
The first part of chapter one recounts Morning Light's trek from the burning chapel to Ocmulgee. But she is not the only character to trek to Ocmulgee. Morning Light and Little Bird male multiple trips there and many other characters are drawn there as well. In the novel, Ocmulgee is the hub where the spokes come together.
This excerpt is from chapter three, 'Bird Song for the Sunrise.' Morning Light is musing about the power of the stories we tell to hold us together. The phrase Spoken World describes the narrative technique of the series - stories told by Morning Light to the medicine beads. It also indicates the importance of oral tradition to both pre-literate and literate cultures and alludes to Creation as the result of the Spoken Word of Ofvngv (the Creator.)
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish