Thursday, November 19, 2020

With immense gratitude to Joy Harjo


Joy Harjo, third-term U.S. Poet Laureate 


It’s closing time. Violence is my boyfriend
With a cross to bear
        Hoisted on by the church.
He wears it everywhere.
There are no female deities in the Trinity.
  I don’t know how I’m going to get out of here,
Said the flying fish to the tree.
            Last call.
We’ve had it with history, we who look for vision here
In the Indian and poetry bar, somewhere
To the left of Hell.
Now I have to find my way, when there’s a river to cross and no
Boat to get me there, when there appears to be no home at all.
               My father gone, chased
By the stepfather’s gun. Get out of here.
I’ve found my father at the bar, his ghost at least, some piece
Of him in this sorry place. The boyfriend’s convincing to a crowd.
Right now, he’s the spell of attraction. What tales he tells.
In the fog of thin hope, I wander this sad world
We’ve made with the enemy’s words.
The lights quiver,
       Like they do when the power’s dwindling to a dangling string.
It is time to go home. We are herded like stoned cattle, like children for the
 bombing drill—
        Out the door, into the dark street of this old Indian town
Where there are no Indians anymore.
I was afraid of the dark, because then I could see
              Everything. The truth with its eyes staring
Back at me. The mouth of the dark with its shiny moon teeth,
No words, just a hiss and a snap.
        I could hear my heart hurting
With my in-the-dark ears.
        I thought I could take it. Where was the party?
It’s been a century since we left home with the American soldiers at our backs.
The party had long started up in the parking lot.
       He flew through the dark, broke my stride with a punch.
I went down then came up.
         I thought I could take being a girl with her heart in her
Arms. I carried it for justice. For the rights of all Indians.
                    We all had that cross to bear.
Those Old Ones followed me, the quiet girl with the long dark hair,
     The daughter of a warrior who wouldn’t give up.
I wasn’t ready yet, to fling free the cross
     I ran and I ran through the 2 a.m. streets.

It was my way of breaking free. I was anything but history. I was the wind.

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