Ghost Prints

Ghost Prints

Walk softly, the old woman said.
Leave nothing disturbed.
Children and warriors knelt near campfires
to be warmed by the wisdom of her life.

They left no path through green woods;
thanked Mother Earth when they hunted;
prayed the good soil of their bones
would replenish what was taken.

I think of my ancestors when I walk in forests.
I think how this land must have been graceful,
accepting the music of soft footprints on ground,
leaving nothing disturbed.

I think of them, too, when I walk here,
where wisdom of elders is locked in antiseptic halls,
and grey city streets are paved
with deep prints in stone.

Shirley Alexander
May, 2011


Filed under history, life, nature, poetry, spiritual

31 responses to “Ghost Prints

  1. Elaine Randall English

    Very nice……how my heart whispers in return….

  2. Pingback: Thursday Poets Rally Week 44 (May 19-25, 2011) | Promising Poets' Poetry Cafe

  3. ghost prints, in nature and in your thoughts, are both haunting and stunning.

    vivid capture of your sentiments.

    keep it up.

    • Thank you. Family history is a very personal thing. Sometimes I think we have not completely lost our ability to pass innate knowledge down for future generations. I feel very close to my Cherokee ancestors when I am in the forest. I also truly believe that my love of expressing myself through words comes from them–and a few rowdy Scotch/Irish ancestors. *grin* The Cherokee, and all Native Americans, were very poetic in their relationship with life and nature.
      Aside from that, we have lost and stolen so much in the name of becoming civilized.

      • Jingle, I have decided to participate in your rally. I don’t often do this sort of thing, but everything I saw over there looks impressive, and I have already read some good posts. Thank you for inviting me.

      • Glad to see you in,

        no upper bound, the more you read, the better feedback you got.
        Good Luck.


  4. I sometimes wonder how wise these ancestors or ours were in reality. When it came to finding the right roots or leaves to ease the pain of arthritis or a sore throat, I have no doubt they knew where to go. It is called survival. I am not putting down the ancestors, please understand, it is just the omnipotent image the news media and film have made of them that I disagree with. Now see, darn it, I could have just as easily gave a standard comment and be done with it, but no, I have to shoot my big mouth off. Loves ya . . . Jerry

    • Thank you for taking time to read my blog, my good friend.

      Wiser than us, Jerry. Example: Native Americans kept this land beautiful and unscarred for at least twelve thousand years. Some artifacts indicate their presence here far before then. They honored the land. They knew all life came from it, and they knew the importance of keeping it sacred. Then, the white man came. In less than seven hundred years, we have all but destroyed the natural garden we found when we arrived.

      True, some of Native history is savage, but even that pales in comparison to what was done to them, on their own soil. If it’s hard to envision this, or accept the truth of it, think about how it would be if another country invaded us now, took over our government, took away our rights, claimed our land, and declared us to be less than human by forcing us to live in poverty on guarded reservations. Yes, the savage history of the “savage” pales in comparison. And that is without mention of all our modern wars, both here and abroad.

      The Indians knew about natural cures because they knew how to make use of what was given to them. All we needed was here. Was here. And now we rape the rain forests. What have we destroyed there? Even more, I think.


  5. Shirley,

    This poem just sings to my heart. As you know learning about my ancestors and their ways is very important to me. The special relationship and bond we can develop with the land we are blessed to walk upon and the wisdom of our elders are all things which make up the framework of my days.

    I particularly love the imagery of your ancestors footprints being as music to the land. *smile*
    It reminds me of the beautiful Foxfire books. I have so enjoyed pouring over them. They have been the best gift I have ever been given. ๐Ÿ™‚

    This poem is a ray of sunshine to my heart. Thankyou so much for sharing it.

    Best wishes to you and the family
    with much love
    (((BIG HUGS)))

    • Tikarma,

      Thank you. After my last edit, I read this out loud for the first time. My thought was: “Tikarma will understand this”. *smile* This love of history and reverence for Earth is one thing I know we share.

      I believe we do make music to the Earth. Some people dance with her to the gentle music of a waltz. Some go through their lives hard and punching as rap. Some people use the natural sounds of life to make their music–song of birds, wind caressing leaves, children laughing. I like to think I am the latter, but I know in my heart I have given the land too much noise. Haven’t we all?

      I’m happy you are enjoying the Foxfire books! I have all of them, and theirs is the first shelf I stand to explore when I want to relax. The ones I sent you were extras I acquired through the years–mostly because I couldn’t bear to leave them on a used book shelf in a thrift shop. *grin* I knew I would someday find someone who would love them as I do.

      All my love to you and Jamie, my friend.
      (((BIG HUGS))) XOXO

  6. Read it twice, it is well written. I did notice one little mistake, the third line on the first stanza you put kneeled, I believe it is knelt. Sorry hope you don’t mind my inner critic. But there is truth to your poem which is why I liked it so much, great job.

    • Thank you for your generous comment. I always appreciate good advice. Ah, the big debate over irregular verbs. *smile*

      When I am writing a more gentle poem, my mind automatically goes for the softer sound, without multiple consonants. That is why I used kneeled. But, I think you are right. Knelt does feel like a more formal and reverent verb, which fits better in the setting. I will change it. Thank you.

  7. Stunning, enjoy reading your work.
    All bless.

  8. belfastdavid

    This is beautiful Shirley,

    As you know the view from my window is of “grey city streets”.
    Were it not for the tree outside my window I might not know that nature existed (It is looking a bit battered after the winds of the last few days, but it will soon restore itself ๐Ÿ™‚ ). And I guess lots of children grow up in these streets with no real experience of the natural world – that can only be sad.
    And we are all to blame! Our relentless pursuit of “more” drives us to destroy the planet we live on and we know that, yet mostly we choose to ignore it.
    I could go on but I won’t.
    But I will think of you walking softly in the forests ๐Ÿ™‚

    With much love

  9. Irish, ๐Ÿ™‚

    Thank you so much for this comment. You opinion will always mean a lot to me.

    Yes, I do know how much you long for a better view, and I have seen your comments about more “great blocks of bloody flats”. ๐Ÿ™‚ Also, I know you are a little apprehensive regarding the scaffolding recently erected on the back side of your building.

    I wish I could give you a forest. Know that you often walk (spiritually) beside me when I am in these woods. Meanwhile, go to the park, take your camera, feed the ducks, and think of how I would laugh while watching you. ๐Ÿ™‚

    It does feel good to be writing again.

    Much love to you, my friend,

  10. Absolutely lovely =) I am miserable and depleted when too far from nature

    • Thank you so much. I’m sorry to be late responding. I updated my browser, and ran into some problems. I had to get a friend to help me sort it out. I loved your post too.

  11. Oh Shirley, Today must be magic with energy, because today I read two new (to me) poets whose work is stunning, and you are one of them. When I first read this, I felt an immediate kinship, and so when I read the poem which preceded it, I wasn’t surprised to read part of my own story in your last four lines. (You left me when I needed you…) Through your comments, I’m learning that we also share Irish, Cherokee and the blood of woods and gentle-back mountains. The person who left was my mother – abandoned by her death after three years fighting cancer when I was a little girl. I took solace in those paths that you walk now, and in my dog who walked beside me. I too have listened to the ghost print of ancestors, in this country and in England. While the Cherokee were all that you say, so were the Welsh, Cornish and the Irish. It was the growth of industrialization that led to the worst sins of man being committed upon this earth, as your Irish friend knows from his window, where only one tree stands against the wind, and as you feel, when you walk amidst the ghosts of our grandparents’ bones-made-earth. You have the wisdom of their eyes in your soul, looking from THEN into NOW, seeing the same spirit connection, no matter if sterile halls – or woods – surround. You are aware of them, and you listen – and that is all they ask.

    • Thank you for this truly beautiful comment. I think your comment might be better than my poem. *smile* But that’s okay, and I found some really good poets today, and you are certainly one of them.
      My ancestors, on all sides, are very important to me. My Loggins ancestors were Scotch/Irish. They changed their family name, Logan to Login, then to Loggins after arriving in this country. I have lineage names going back to the 13th century in a family history book, compiled by a cousin.
      I cannot trace my Cherokee heritage back as far as I can my European roots, but I feel lucky to be able to go back farther than most people who try. I do know the name, and have a photo of, my great grandmother, fives times back. I also know the names of her father, mother, and grandfather. This is like a treasure in my spirit, and helps me remember that I am a part of them.
      The woods and mountains, streams and heavens, are my salvation and inspiration, as I am sure they were for our ancestors. I can sense the same reverence for the land in your words. Native Americans lived WITH the land. How could any people live so close to the Earth without becoming a part of it? That is what we have lost, we in our concrete and steel houses, with cement paths to walk. We have lost our kinship with Earth.
      My Irish friend is fortunate to be one of those rare treasures who looks out his window at one tree and sees a forest. *smile*
      Thank you so much for the lovely comment. I hope we will know more of each other.


  12. There are those who walk through,
    And never see the dew,
    And miss the hawk’s silent search,
    As she sits upon her perch,
    How then can they ever really see,
    Ancestors who live near rock and tree?
    Ghost prints are left to mark the way,
    For those who focus and do not stray,
    Following with heart and eyesight keen,
    To where village stood midst forest green,
    Out again to roads where cars are heard,
    Having been spoken to without any words.

    My impromptu rendition of native ancestory, still surrounding me whenever I walk through woods following ghost prints.

    • Your comment is well appreciated. I have saved it in my files to read again, and print to add to my little collection of poems which inspire me. I take it on “by myself” trips, when I have more time for reading and writing.
      Thank you so much.

  13. Liz

    This is a most excellent piece … sharing my own sentiments.

  14. Beautiful. Your words resonant with me and mirror some of my own thoughts.

  15. Wow! Iยดll no longer walk on the streets the same as I did before! Now I will always think og those ghosts prints.
    Lovely ๐Ÿ™‚

    Lu Ann

  16. Thank you. The ghost prints of our ancestors are buried beneath those streets now, but you can still feel them if you close your eyes and open your spirit.

  17. What a beautiful and haunting poem! I love the picture it paints of the Native Americans walking ‘softly’ through the land – the words you use have that same gentleness. The closing lines too – now, they bring a surprise, the shock of the urban, but the message of the first inhabitants is remembered by the poet. very, very nice.

    • Thank you, John. My Cherokee roots are an important element in the mix of what defines me.
      Closing lines–as you read more of my poems, you will notice that a strong finish is the one thing I try to incorporate into all my writing. It is also something I enjoy when reading other poets’ work.