Old Man Gneering

Tabitha Lean-Budhin Mingaan

She always loved the smell 
of the ancient gneering-
crispy fresh,
subtle...but not subdued.
It was like a shot of whiskey
without the snap kick to your ribs,
but with the warmth
that spread right across your chest,
melting your cold dead heart
until it was beating again-
a beautiful crimson, pulsing organ,
alive and clean,
open and available,
vulnerable but keen.
She never felt alone
deep among the trees.
She could lay her head
at the base of the trunk,
staring up into the canopy,
watching the branches gently sway 
as her ancestors whistled into the winds
sending missives from the beyonds by
shaking the leaves ever so gently. 
Her kookoon had taught her how to hear-
to truly listen,
to open your heart and ears 
to the old ones.
He would say, “shush bpup bpup ngan,
this is a time for stillness,
a time for quiet-
listen for the pause,
because in the moment of silence,
that little pause between breaths and 
the silence between heart beats,
you’ll hear old man gneering 
passing on wisdoms from the dreaming,
the place that holds the stories,
and the songs-
the place that holds the lore
and all that is sacred.”
“Be still, bpup bpup ngan,
rest those feet in the earth that birthed you,
tilt your face to the sky,
hold one hand to the trunk
so you can feel gneering’s heartbeat,
and the other on your belly
so you can feel your spirit,
‘coz he’ll talk to you, my girl,
that old tree will give you 
the words to heal,
the fire to light a path before you,
if only you learn to listen,
to hear
and to be still.”
“that old gneering is wise,
and strong,
yet she bleeds,
she’s like you, bpup bpup ngan,
she’s like you.”

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