poetry By Duane Niatum Trickster Is the first to make you smile. He flies right into our hearts showing he created the world for his own amusement and ours. Trickster shares the merry-go-round world with us while pointing the way we put our foot in our mouths and our minds in the gopher hole. Trickster, the Raven, asks us please remember our most loved stories shake the silliness from our lives. Raven does a little side step, a dance he learned from crab, showing us the sideshow glimpses of the world and ourselves. Raven sends laughter and glorks floating around in waves, the clown appearing on the stage or at the bottom of our dreams. We love the many-masked one ancestors called the First Teacher. We see ourselves grow and change from his stories. Trickster flaps his wings and dances down the zigzag path so we can hold on to what life brings. If we fall in laughter he cushions the ground like a field of pillows. Elders told us he is the larger than life character, one who changes at the drop of a cedar cone into anything his four-shadowed heart desires. And Trickster does have more sides than a walrus but never as round as that ton of blubber or as smelly. Raven desires nothing but to shatter or remove our tendency to stick our head in sand. And he has no reservations at poking fun at the timid and lazy, the bigot and prude, coward and liar, the ones with guns and thousand- dollar bills glinting in their eyes. Yet Raven’s lasting role is to wear the mask of the night, the critter roaming in the blood of our nature. And at your bedside he sings a lullaby to put under your pillow. If you close your eyes with a smile and the rose blossoms on your cheeks, Sleep Bird will coo for the night and you’ll wake in a laugh of delight. He steps through the forest with the sun and moon as a person like you, or a fox or yellow lupine. Trickster surprises by surfacing from the oldest and deepest burrows of our ancestor stories. Raven’s so old he was skipping down Earth’s trail singing before dinosaurs turned into streams of oil pools. Trickster flies through our lives and sparkles in our eyes with his salmon-in-the-sky masquerade. Eagle has been jealous since he broke from his mother’s egg. Raven cruises through our imagination and we love it; he’s a survivor from history and always has a story to tell. Deep within us, at the spirit’s cave, he is a real friend and guardian.