"Ceremony," Vocabulary from Sections 1-3

July 4, 2013
"Ceremony" by Leslie Marmon Silko is about the wounds of the past and how difficult it can be to reconcile with that past and move forward.

Learn these word lists for the novel: Sections 1-3, Sections 4-5, Sections 6-8, Sections 9-10
Ts’its’tsi’nako, Thought-Woman, is sitting in her room and whatever she thinks about appears.
The only cure I know is a good ceremony, that’s what she said.
He tossed in the old iron bed, and the coiled springs kept squeaking even after he lay still again, calling up humid dreams of black night and loud voices rolling him over and over again like debris caught in a flood.
Sometimes the Japanese voices came first, angry and loud, pushing the song far away, and then he could hear the shift in his dreaming, like a slight afternoon wind changing its direction, coming less and less from the south, moving into the west, and the voices would become Laguna voices, and he could hear Uncle Josiah calling to him, Josiah bringing him the fever medicine when he had been sick a long time ago.
He could still see them now—the creamy sorrel, the bright red bay, and the gray roan—their slick summer coats reflecting the sunlight as it came up from behind the yellow mesas, shining on them, strung out behind Josiah’s horse like an old-time pack train.
So Tayo had to sweat through those nights when thoughts became entangled; he had to sweat to think of something that wasn’t unraveled or tied in knots to the past—something that existed by itself, standing alone like a deer.
That was the first time Tayo had realized that the man’s skin was not much different from his own.
The process of weaning had gone on like this for weeks, but the nanny was more intent on weeds than the lesson, and when Tayo left them, the kid goat was back at the tits, a little more careful this time.
The drought years had returned again, as they had after the First World War and in the twenties, when he was a child and they had to haul water to the sheep in big wooden barrels in the old wagon.
The dry air shrank the wooden staves of the barrels; they pulled loose, and now the rusty steel hoops were scattered on the ground behind the corral in the crazy patterns of some flashy Kiowa hoop dancer at the Gallup Ceremonials, throwing his hoops along the ground where he would hook and flip them into the air again and they would skim over his head and shoulders down to his dancing feet, like magic.
Jungle rain had no beginning or end; it grew like foliage from the sky, branching and arching to the earth, sometimes in solid thickets entangling the islands, and, other times, in tendrils of blue mist curling out of coastal clouds.
Nothing was all good or all bad either; it all depended.
Tayo talked to the corporal almost incessantly, walking behind him with his end of the blanket stretcher, telling him that it wasn’t much farther now, and all down hill from there.
Then from somewhere, within the sound of the rain falling, he could hear it approaching like a summer flash flood, the rumble still faint and distant, floodwater boiling down a narrow canyon.
He could smell the foaming flood water, stagnant and ripe with the rotting debris it carried past each village, sucking up their sewage, their waste, the dead animals.
When the corn was gone, the mule licked for the salt taste on his hand; the tongue was rough and wet, but it was also warm and precise across his fingers.
The smoke had been dense; visions and memories of the past did not penetrate there, and he had drifted in colors of smoke, where there was no pain, only pale, pale gray of the north wall by his bed.
He leaned against the depot wall then; he was sweating, and sounds were becoming outlines again, vague and hollow in his ears, and he knew he was going to become invisible right there.
Harley was drawing an intricate pattern in the dirt, moving his forefinger without pausing then.
Tayo shook his head and threw his arms up in front of him, pretending to push the idea away.
He was tired of fighting off the dreams and the voices; he was tired of guarding himself against places and things which evoked the memories.
They were the same—the mule and old Grandma, she sitting in the corner of the room in the wintertime by the potbelly stove, or the summertime on an apple crate under the elm tree; she was as blind as the gray mule and just as persistent.
They all mourned Rocky that way, by slipping, lapsing into the plans he had for college and for his football career.
The force of gravity seemed to surge up at him and pull him down.
Many years ago she had taken him to conceal the shame of her younger sister.
When Rocky died he became unassailable forever in his frame on top of her bureau; his death gave her new advantages with the people: she had given so much.
He pulled his knees up to his belly and writhed in the bed, fighting back the gagging.
But his advantage was the Army doctors who told her and Robert that the cause of battle fatigue was a mystery, even to them.
In the beginning old Grandma and Robert stayed away from him, except to say “Good morning” or “Good night”; the sickness and his crying overwhelmed them.
He had cultivated this deafness for as many years as he had been married to Auntie.
Old Grandma stood up straight when she said this and stared at Auntie with milky cataract eyes.
The rattlesnakes liked to lie there in the early spring, when the days were still cool and the sun warmed the black lava rock first; the snakes went there to restore life to themselves.
It was all too alien to comprehend, the mortars and big guns; and even if he could have taken the old man to see the target areas, even if he could have led him through the fallen jungle trees and muddy craters of torn earth to show him the dead, the old man would not have believed anything so monstrous.
Ku’oosh would have looked at the dismembered corpses and the atomic heat-flash outlines, where human bodies had evaporated, and the old man would have said something close and terrible had killed these people.
Cash from disability checks earned with shrapnel in the neck at Wake Island or shell shock on Iwo Jima; rewards for surviving the Bataan Death March.
He could feel the words coming out faster and faster, the momentum building inside him like the words were all going to explode and he wanted to finish before it happened.
Rocky was honing his knife; he tested the blade on a thread hanging from the sleeve of his jacket.
After their first year at boarding school in Albuquerque, Tayo saw how Rocky deliberately avoided the old-time ways.
They had to show their love and respect, their appreciation; otherwise, the deer would be offended, and they would not come to die for them the following year.
We better send someone to ask our forgiveness.

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