The Celt and the Kiowa

When I drink, said the Celt, the world loses its edge,
and the universe comes into view;
my sad, suicide culture steps back from the ledge,
and the words of the poets come true.

There is hope for my race, and its future is clear,
the spirits of the land speak out;
my madness is cured, and those things I hold dear,
from the shadows can find their way out.

As for me, said the Kiowa, when I abstain,
the connectedness of life shows through;
and the sacred becomes easier to explain –
it is part of each act that I do.

‘Tis the whiskey, the Celt said, that loosens the mind;
and yet sober, the Kiowa said, truth I find.

When I drink, said the Kiowa, things fall apart,
and a madness consumes life and hope;
as my path winds along weary paths without heart,
chasing shadows that bind me, like rope.

There is nothing left to me, no vision or dreams,
only sadness and endless travail;
and the fabric of sanity frays at the seams,
taking my strength and leaving me frail.

As for me, said the Celt, when I put down the glass,
the ugliness seeps through my pores;
and the worst expectations soon all come to pass –
the sickness of famine and wars.

‘Tis the whiskey, the Kiowa said, that brings death;
and yet sober, the Celt said, life is wasted breath.

03 DEC 2002

A few weeks ago my wife Sondra and I were having a discussion, and one of the topics that came up was my perception of the similarity between Native American and Celtic spirituality. Granted, much has been made of this supposed “correlation” in a number of “new age” and so-called serious “magical” studies, but there is a point that I identified that I think many have missed. That is the predilection that both peoples seem to have to use and in many cases abuse alcohol.

While this may seem a somewhat superficial insight, it takes on a deeper significance when you consider that the Celt and the Native American seem to have opposite reactions to alcohol. To stereotype a great deal, when the Native American is sober, their spirituality seems to be a positive interaction with the earth; but a drunk Native is likely to be bitter, mean and trouble. On the contrary, when an Celt is sober, their worldview is often bleak,dreary and negative; however, once they are drunk, they tend to wax poetic, to see the heroic and universal in a more clear light.

Maybe this is PURE speculation. Maybe not. In any event, I wrote a poem today that explores this dichotomy/parallel.

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