The tree grew up overnight, the first anyone knew
Was sunrise and passengers tumbling from cars gawking
At that tree, its lower branches wreathed in fog,
Its upper branches gathering the fog into
Towering clouds. Crow winged out of the sun, squawking,
And drove the dogs away from the tree,
And we danced, we danced down the sun and the fog,
We danced the concrete into dust, the dust into the sea.
Image: a collage of crow and hawk, by John Curley, published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) license, and el fantasma by Flickr user Celeste RC, published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0) license.
The crow is one of the birds — perhaps, depending on the tribe, the principal bird — sacred to the Ghost Dance. Sitting Bull, the Arapaho prophet, made this song after he had the experience of once again meeting his father, who had died years before:
My father at first did not recognize me, my father
At first did not recognize me;
When he saw me again, when he saw me
Again, he said, “You are the offspring
Of a crow,” he said, “You
Are the child of a crow.”
James Mooney, The Ghost Dance Religion and the Sioux Outbreak of 1890 (1896), p. 972 (reformatted here). Mooney speculates that the reference to the crow “may refer to [Sitting Bull’s] own sacred character as an apostle, the crow being regarded as the messenger from the spirit world.” Id.
The verse form (called san san) rhymes a b c a b d c d, and repeats three images three times each: here, the tree; the sun or sunrise; the fog.