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Indigenous Poetry Heals All


I find myself reading poetry for inspiration in difficult times. I  just re-read Joy Harjo's (Muscogee Creek) about the murdered American Indian Movement activist Anna Mae Aquash (Mi'kmaq). Recently, I have been thoroughly enjoying reading new Oregon Poet Laureate Elizabeth Woody (Navajo-Warm Springs-Wasco-Yakama).

Anna Mae with her daughters

I've interviewed Anna Mae Aquash's daughter, Denise Pictou Maloney and her loss of her mother is often on my mind. Her tragic death hurts my soul, I cannot forget her mother. She stood for the people and the ideals of what the movement was supposed to mean and she was killed for it. So many of our young Native people have lost their parents to pain...and to the struggle. Both to the cruelty of the colonial system we find ourselves in and to the self-hatred it has planted within ourselves. We need healing as a people and it is with that in mind I read Joy Harjo's poem about Anna Mae from In Mad Love and War.


For Anna Mae Pictou Aquash, Whose Spirit Is Present Here and in the Dappled Stars (for we remember the story and must tell it again so we may all live)


By Joy Harjo

Beneath a sky blurred with mist and wind,
I am amazed as I watch the violet 
heads of crocuses erupt from the stiff earth
after dying for a season,
as I have watched my own dark head
appear each morning after entering
the next world to come back to this one,
amazed.
It is the way in the natural world to understand the place
the ghost dancers named
after the heart breaking destruction.
Anna Mae,
everything and nothing changes.
You are the shimmering young woman
who found her voice,
when you were warned to be silent, or have your body cut away
from you like an elegant weed.
You are the one whose spirit is present in the dappled stars.
(They prance and lope like colored horses who stay with us
through the streets of these steely cities. And I have seen them
nuzzling the frozen bodies of tattered drunks
on the corner.)
This morning when the last star is dimming
and the busses grind toward
the middle of the city, I know it is ten years since they buried you
the second time in Lakota, a language that could
free you.
I heard about it in Oklahoma, or New Mexico,
how the wind howled and pulled everything down
in righteous anger.
(It was the women who told me) and we understood wordlessly
the ripe meaning of your murder.
As I understand ten years later after the slow changing
of the seasons
that we have just begun to touch
the dazzling whirlwind of our anger,
we have just begun to perceive the amazed world the ghost dancers
entered
crazily, beautifully.


And Elizabeth Woody from Luminaries of the Humble because we need to shine a light when it is needed and as her the richness of her descriptions evoke even the humble can be beautiful when revealed:


Illumination


By Elizabeth Woody

The irresistible and benevolent light
brushes through the angel-wing begonias,
the clippings of ruddy ears for the living room.
Intimate motes, debris of grounded, forlorn walks,
speckle through the vitreous quality of blush.
As fluid lulls turn like trout backs, azure-tipped fins
oscillate in the shallows, the clear floating
is dizziness.

Tender events are meeting halves and wholes of affinity,
the recurrence of whimsy and parallel streams
flush away the blockage of malaise.
Incessant gratitude, pliable kindness smolders
in the husk of these sweet accumulations:
abalone shells, the thoughtful carvings from friends,
the stone of another’s pocket, the photo of mystified
moon over water, the smiles of worn chairs.

Austere hopes find pleasure in lately cherished flowers.
The blooms are articulate deluge, hues of delicacy.
Petals parted dim renderings, the viable imprint
of the blood-hot beam of light with reformed courage.
Beveling the finish to suppression, the blade of choice
brings the flourish of dividing while adequately doubling
worth by two. Multiplying. The luminescent burning of space.
The heat is a domicile as abandoned as red roses budding
their ascension from stem.

The sun has its own drum contenting itself with the rose
heart it takes into continual rumbling. The connection
of surface and hand. The great head of dark clouds finds
its own place of unraveled repercussions and disruption,
elsewhere, over the tall, staunch mountains of indemnity.



Jacqueline Keeler
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1 comment:

Sacheen Littlefeather said...

Thanks This made my day