you have to soak the elk hide overnight.
i have a stack of half-finished love letters
that i have written to my body
that all begin and end with the same word
i’m not sure if i’m apologizing to myself
or to someone else.
you have to work the hide to make it soft
rub it together and slap it on the side of the bucket.
be rough. be forceful. be gentle.
you will know when the hide is ready.
you’ll feel it.
i have worked my skin over
and over again
waiting for it to be soft enough
to stretch over
place the wooden frame in the middle of the hide
make holes around the outside so we can begin to prepare
to stretch elk tight.
i have plucked the hair
from my head
in order to thread needles
hoping to bead flowers onto my
trying to make them works of art
next you thread deer hide strips through holes
pull hard but be gentle
as you weave
over and under
deer is not as tough as elk
but it is strong enough to pull hide tight.
watch for tears.
i have been writing love letters to my body
that begin and end
with the same word.
let the drum dry for a few days in an open space.
watch hide become hard.
listen to hide become ceremony.
when do i become soft?
your first drum is never yours.
give it away.