Tiel Aisha Ansari 

 

Thunder Skull-Face



That afternoon on Steens Mountain, Thunder came walking
up the valley in his black hat and white tails.
Bolts blasted the ridge above my head, giant feet of ice
stomped the stone. He poked his bony face
into the tent where I huddled, poles bending
under the weight of massed hail. "Hey, Tiel
watch me pick up this tent and sail it off the mountain!"

I'd been there alone, most of four weeks
walking the mountainside mapping shrinking snowfields, drawing
transects
to measure the swift eruption of life in that short, short summer.
At nine thousand feet the air is thin
and sun is savage, knife-shaped,
will scar your retinas. You can go snow-blind
standing on bare rock.
Meanwhile the sere basins a mile below swirl with alkali dust
and spit up strange weather.

That's where I dreamed I wasn't the only me.
My parents had an older daughter by the same name. She died:
there was a car crash (I knew this in my dream) and I
was second-born and named for her. Or I was
her daughter, somehow rescued from the wreckage
of her body. My parents (grandparents)
hid this truth —

so I would believe I was the only Tiel
ever. Unique, isolate, atomic,
island as no man truly is, like this mountain in the middle of a desert
ringed by long-dead lakes, part of no cordillera, no Great Divide,
no family of shining peaks linked by tales of quarreling brothers and
beautiful sisters.
Steens Mountain has no siblings.
I have no sister by the same name as me.

 

 

Tiel Aisha Ansari is a Sufi warrior poet. Her work has been featured by Fault Lines Poetry, Windfall, KBOO and Prairie Home Companion among others. Her books include Knocking from Inside and High-Voltage Lines. She works as a data analyst for the Portland Public School district and currently serves as president of the Oregon Poetry Association. Visit her online at knockingfrominside.blogspot.com