An Imitator in Everything

by James Treat

These found poems are drawn from interviews with elderly citizens of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation recorded in 1937-38 as part of the Indian-Pioneer History Project sponsored by the federal Works Progress Administration and archived at the Oklahoma Historical Society and the University of Oklahoma. You can read more about this project at Tribal College and Reckoning. —Eds.

a woman will have a hard time
during the childbirth period
if she stands in the door
lies across the bed
or eats of the chicken gizzard

if a pregnant woman
for at least four months before delivery
takes internally as a tea and
bathes in the water in which
the slippery elm and cottonwood barks
have been boiled
the labor will not be difficult
nor of long duration

a mud daubers nest
placed in warm water and dissolved
and taken internally
also helps to make
a quicker delivery during childbirth

the tongue of a mockingbird
fed to a small infant
will cause the child to grow up to be
an imitator in everything

the toes of a quail
scratched on the feet of a baby in infancy
will tend to make the child grow up
fast and nimble

the toes of a lizard
scratched upon the feet of a baby
is believed to cause the child to become
a good and alert climber

a young boy or young man
who eats the chicken gizzard
will be thirsty for water
during the war time when he is in battle

Monie Coker, b. ca. 1871

JAMES TREAT is the author of Around the Sacred Fire: Native Religious Activism in the Red Power Era and the editor of several volumes of native literature. His essays and poems have appeared in American Indian Culture and Research JournalAmerican QuarterlyContemporary Verse 2Cultural Survival QuarterlyFourth GenreIndian Country TodayInterdisciplinary Studies in Literature and EnvironmentMuscogee Nation NewsNative AmericasOrionStudies in American Indian LiteratureTribal College JournalVerbatim Found Poetry, and other academic and literary journals. Treat is an enrolled citizen of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. More information about his work is available at his website.