The imagery in this poem is Pagan imagery (the World Tree, the river between the worlds in The Ballad of Thomas the Rhymer, the land of the dead being over the ocean). The poem is dedicated to the children who did not come home from residential schools. I woke up this morning with the fragment of a dream in my head with beads being threaded on a string as some sort of remembrance ritual. The poem is an attempt to capture the dream.
Out of the veins of the world comes the blood of me;
The heart that beats in my side is the heart of the sea;
The hills have known me of old, and they do not forget;
Long ago was I friends with the wind; I am friends with it yet.
The hills are grey, they are strange; they breed desire
Of a tune that the feet may march to and not tire;
For always up in the distance the thin roads wind.
And passing out of sight, they pass not out of mind.
I am glad when morning and evening alter the skies;
There speaks no voice of the stars but my voice replies;
When wave on wave all night cries out in its need,
I listen, I understand; my heart takes heed.
Out of the red-brown earth, out of the grey-brown streams.
Came this perilous body, cage of perilous dreams;
To the ends of all waters and lands they are tossed, they are whirled.
For my dreams are one with my body, yea, one with the world.
From The golden book of modern English poetry 1870-1920, selected & arranged by Thomas Caldwell