A poem about the Ohlone people

While writing and rewriting some poems recently, I realized I never wrote a poem about the Ohlone people that inhabit my novel. In so many ways, I want to pay tribute to them and yet not speak for them. It’s not for me to define their worldview, I can only attempt to pass on a few things that I’ve learned in studying their culture, of which so little is actually known. The following is a modest attempt to capture a small part of their consciousness. Perhaps it also speaks to some current thoughts in our lives today.


The band moved stealthily through the neck-high grass,
Their slow steps falling silent on the soft loamy plain, 
A pack of wolves in measured time, intent on its prey. 
No science, no proof, no warrant, no score, 
Only nature’s design and the will to survive. 
The upright bows brush against the pregnant seed heads, 
Drops of grain catch the wind and filter downward 
Nestling into the soil, finding purchase in the ochre folds. 
The world exists in this one place, for now, and always. 
The erudition of reason, abstraction, and compilation 
Useless in the pursuit of food and sustenance. 
There is the hunter and the hunted and the animation of all things, 
No hierarchy of beings and no pursuit of process. 
The stalking continues, a bird whistle halts the advance. 
The truth is sighted, the only truth known 
The way of the people, one organism, one living thing. 
Two arrows puncture the heart of an ancestor. 
It bleeds out beneath the band’s prayer song. 
There will be a feast tonight, meat for the tribe, 
Dancing and singing beside the communal fire. 
The burning flames licking the night air, speaking in tongues. 
No polemic demanded, no method to abide.

Sketch from Five Hundred Moons
“The Ohlone” copyright 2023 by Buzz Anderson.

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