Lynn Veach Sadler

Winner of the Cecil Hemley Memorial Award in 2003

Why I Paint Chairs



After the running off of Mother,
Chief allowed Father to marry again.
Father was very happy with the girl
who had taunted my mother's strange ways.

After seven moon changes,
Father sickened.
Medicine Man can make
women create more daughters,
more miraculous molas.
Medicine Man could do nothing for Father.
They hung him aside
in a special hammock
under a palm-leaf-covered roof.
New Wife tended him all night,
never letting die the fire,
for he must stay hot
to drive off Fever Beings.
But Mother had sent them,
and women are more powerful
in their secret ways.

New Wife shouted throughout the tribe
Mother fled to Choc—s,
poisoned Father with Choc— blowgun darts.
But all knew Father ill of Soul.
His never wanting Mother
went against him.
Cunas know—
when Soul is sad or sick or torn and old,
so is Body.
So, Father died.
New Wife sewed him in his hammock
for the Secret Burial Place
on the special island where no one lives.
Wife of Chief held me,
yet baby, in her arms.
I cannot tell if I remember
or was allowed to know
it all from Chief.
New Wife brought Father Bundle
in a special cayuca
to be hung between
forked sticks in a dug-out cave.
They covered Father Bundle
with rocks,
the fronds of palms,
other living things.
They set a chair beside the cave.
Father's Soul
would roam and roam
the world all day
trying to be at peace with itself.
Father Soul would return
to cave at night
to sit in the chair to rest.

Cunas have no chairs
but for dead Souls.
I paint chairs in my paintings.
No critics notice
or ask what my chairs mean.

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