Literature

Celebrating Native Americans…Poetry

11.28.2020

Hello everyone! This is the final day of my week of celebrating Native Americans in creative platforms for Native American Heritage Month. I wanted to do theater, but I decided to do poetry. Found a video from four years ago, from Button Poetry and a few other poems from Native American poets you can read below…

 

This poem here…WOW!

 

 

 

America, I Sing Back

Allison Adelle Hedge Coke – 1958-

for Phil Young, my father, Robert Hedge Coke, Whitman, and Hughes

America, I sing back. Sing back what sung you in.
Sing back the moment you cherished breath.
Sing you home into yourself and back to reason.

Oh, before America began to sing, I sung her to sleep,
held her cradleboard, wept her into day.
My song gave her creation, prepared her delivery,
held her severed cord beautifully beaded.

My song helped her stand, held her hand for first steps,

nourished her very being, fed her, placed her three sisters strong.
My song comforted her as she battled my reason

broke my long held footing sure, as any child might do.

Lo, as she pushed herself away, forced me to remove myself,
as I cried this country, my song grew roses in each tear’s fall.

My blood veined rivers, painted pipestone quarries
circled canyons, while she made herself maiden fine.

Oh, but here I am, here I am, here, I remain high on each and every peak,
carefully rumbling her great underbelly, prepared to pour forth singing—

and sing again I will, as I have always done.

Never silenced unless in the company of strangers, singing

the stoic face, polite repose, polite, while dancing deep inside, polite
Mother of her world. Sister of myself.

When my song sings aloud again. When I call her back to cradle.
Call her to peer into waters, to behold herself in dark and light,

day and night, call her to sing along, call her to mature, to envision—

Then, she will make herself over. My song will make it so

When she grows far past her self-considered purpose,
I will sing her back, sing her back. I will sing. Oh, I will—I do.

America, I sing back. Sing back what sung you in.

 

 

 

The Exile

Michael Wasson
 

Chilocco Indian School, Oklahoma, 1922: A disciplinarian says, There is no foolishness, do everything just so… such as keep your room clean, keep yourself clean, and no speaking of your Native language.

For now I can
             just whisper 
kál’a sáw

                  the ’óx̣ox̣ox̣
      of your hím’ k’up’íp

wrecked at the base
                         of a century that burns

through my slow blood

/

                                 kiké’t caught

in the blink                                       silúupe

so draw the eyelids
       shut & forget the fire 
tangled among the branches

of your spine
             start where the skin meets

half an autumn
       rusting the edge of winter that is

knifing                        between me & ’iin

you & ’iim ’ee

/

boy     have you forgotten us
                                                is not what they are saying

or are they        asks another century

        how are we remembered
in our choreography
of bones?

/

mouth your birthplace          boy
without mouthing off           tim’néepe    is at the heart

or the heart of the monster
                                         or the grass blood-soaked

from the fresh kill that finally isn’t
your father

& pray héwlekce when your body is given away       says the
     orphan boy

with lashes licked into his shoulders

forget ’im’íic   because they can         tear every lip from every
     memory

                                     of your mother

/

because you are
torn & because you are
what song fills
your throat
with the color
of carved out tongue

peewsnúut & hi’lakáa’awksa
              is what is voiced in the dark
& so what does it mean
                           asks the boy

/

as the moon
glows mouth open
to the unbearable
taste of ash
blown among the stars

that the boy learned
the ghost’s trail

that milky way
is lit by the dying
brightly echoed

/

c’ewc’éewnim ’ískit
so there had to be breathing

there had to be.

 

Translations:
kál’a sáw—just in sudden silence
‘óx̣ox̣ox̣ —sound of bones and flesh tearing
hím’ k’up’íp—sound of a mouth breaking
kiké’t—blood
silúupe—at or in the eye
’iin—I
’iim ’ee—you (with emphasis)
tim’néepe—at or in the heart, where the mind and felt emotions are housed. Also, the name
of the Nez Perce creation site, Heart of the Monster, located in Kamiah, Idaho.
héwlekce—I disappear
’im’íic—your mom [more intimate] (as opposed to your mother)
peewsnúut—without tongue, or cut tongue, or removed of one’s tongue
hi’lakáa’awksa—he, she, or it is lit all through the night
c’ewc’éewnim ’ískit—the ghost’s trail / the Milky Way

 

 

 

Nationhood

Laura Da’
 
I am a citizen of two nations: Shawnee and American. 
I have one son who is a citizen of three.
Before he was born, I learned that, like all infants, he would need to experience a change of heart at birth in order to survive.
When a baby successfully breathes in through the lungs, the heart changes from parallel flow to serial flow and the shunt between the right and left atriums closes. Our new bodies obliterate old frontiers. North America is mistakenly called nascent.
The Shawnee nation is mistakenly called moribund.
America established a mathematical beginning point in 1785 in what was then called the Northwest Territory.
Before that, it was known in many languages as the eastern range of the Shawnee, Miami, and Huron homelands.
I do not have the Shawnee words to describe this place; the notation that is available to me is 40º38’32.61” N 80º31’9.76” W.

 

Hope you enjoyed these poets and their beautiful words. It’s been interesting to find these gems of Indigenous creativity. I pray to find and hear more in the future. Enjoy the rest of your Friday, be safe, be healthy, and be blessed. 

 

 

Featured image: Quotefancy

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