I was sitting in my car recently, on a freeway, (or should I say a parking lot?), stuck in traffic, not moving. To while away the time, I was reading the bumper stickers and signs in the back windows of other automobiles around me. While wondering if I’d ever get home, it suddenly struck me; the parallels between totems and talismans, and these stickers, magnets, and pasted-on emblems that modern man posts on his steel steed to declare his beliefs.
Why, as a species, do we need to declare our stand on issues? You don’t see dogs waving signs reading ‘Down with Cats’ or ‘I Love Treats’. You don’t see gorillas posting signs saying ‘I Love Bananas’ or ‘Stop Killing our Mothers!’. Or a dolphin bearing a sign on his tail: ‘Stop Tuna Fishing.’
But, back to my inspiration. Grabbing scraps of paper from the floorboards—lest I forget my words—I scribbled frantically on a restaurant napkin, an old receipt, the back of a discarded grocery list. All the while, watching the cars in front of me creep down the road.
Here is the poetry that was born while trapped in my car, impatiently sitting in traffic.
Totem and Talisman ©Trisha Sugarek
Totem. Storyteller of the tribe’s history and lore,
felled and carved in reverence, from the tree centuries old sculpted in living wood;
a face, a fish, a spirit, a bear, the sun, the moon
Totems live on as statuary in today’s garden; a wooden rooster tops the mail box.
A mural brushed upon a barn wall; the flag of a beloved country, the star of a lone state.
The Native People painted their sturdy, brave little horses before battle…
a circle of paint about the eye for truer vision, hand prints on shoulder and flank to ward off the spear
Today’s tribes paint their vehicles with bumper stickers, magnetic ribbons,
and window decals. All proclaiming some truth, totems to tell other tribes what they believe.
Support this, hate that, down with this, up with that.
Proud to be a redneck,
a woman, a boater, a Christian,
a Viet Nam vet,
proud to be a farmer,
a republican, a parent, a fisherman.
Prouder still to be a soldier,
a grandpa, a boy scout, a sailor, a golfer, an Irishman, a lover of guns.
Keep yourself open to inspiration… eyes, ears, brain and heart. You will be inspired by strange and wonderful things and you will write strange and wonderful things. You will leave totems for following generations to read.
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