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.
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
of your hím’ k’up’íp
wrecked at the base
of a century that burns
through my slow blood
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
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
& pray héwlekce when your body is given away says the
with lashes licked into his shoulders
forget ’im’íic because they can tear every lip from every
of your mother
because you are
torn & because you are
what song fills
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
so there had to be breathing
there had to be.
kál’a sáw—just in sudden silence
‘óx̣ox̣ox̣ —sound of bones and flesh tearing
hím’ k’up’íp—sound of a mouth breaking
silúupe—at or in the eye
’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.
’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
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