The sudden arrival of a violent windstorm
Appeared to be quite mysterious,
Winds that swooped down west slopes
To the lowest hills and canyons
Of the Sierra Nevada mountain span,
Coming from around Mono Lake
Before disappearing into unseeable reality.
A world ruled by a multitude
Of invisible forces of a non-physical plane.
Wind that had to line up exactly right
To be hard-bearing, and ruinous.
Speeding up, swift down-sloping:
Wind gusts up to 55 miles per hour.
A dread-filled day and night of non-stop,
Unmatched, widespread devastation,
Toppling of hundreds of trees.
15 giant redwoods in Mariposa Grove,
Thousands of years old,
Ripped roots out of the ground.
Winds snapped trunks in half,
Squalls gusted to 110 miles per hour,
A seemingly random force of nature
That comes around every ten years.
But not so for shaman, Tibo’o,
Both feared and respected
Northern Paiute, of the acorn eaters.
He was medicine man, and weather doctor.
He used two buffalo nickels
To tweeze his beard.
And he was bulletproof.
White man’s guns could not kill him,
Bullets and buckshot fell from his pant leg.
He could be callous and uncaring,
And ate Wada root and grass-seed.
He communicated with invisible powers,
Was adept at controlling weather:
Thunderstorms and mighty squalls.
He traveled to non-worldly realities
Riding horse-shaped spirits.
He was a “good talker,” and forbade
His people from slaughtering white settlers
In the Owens Valley Indian War of 1861.
The Mono Wind could not be ignored,
An autonomous living-force manifested,
angry air spirit sent to punish the guilty.
The all-powerful current of stormy wrath,
Mightier than the power of mortals,
Sought out evil men and women, turning them
into Aspen trees, always quaking when the winds,
Stronger than the Washoe Zephyr, arrived.
The Mono Wind was a harbinger of fate.
Poem by Stephen Barile
Stephen Barile, a Fresno, California native, educated in the public schools, and attended Fresno City College, Fresno Pacific University, and California State University, Fresno. He was a long-time member of the Fresno Poet’s Association. Stephen Barile taught writing at Madera Community College, and CSU Fresno. He lives in Fresno. His poems have been published extensively, including Featured Poets, Santa Clara Review, Kathmandu Tribune, Tower Poetry, As It Ought To Be Magazine, Rue Scribe, Open: Journal of Arts & Letters, Metafore Magazine, From Sac Literary Journal, The Heartland Review, Rio Grande Review, The Broad River Review, The San Joaquin Review, Haight-Ashbury Literary Journal, Pharos.