More Joy Harjo

I love Joy Harjo’s work so much. Yesterday’s piece prompted me to read some more of her poems, and they are just exquisite. I decided to post this one today, but I heartily recommend you go look up more of her work on your own. Her work is clear-eyed and forthright and beautiful. Enjoy.

When the World As We Knew It Ended
by Joy Harjo

We were dreaming on an occupied island at the farthest edge
of a trembling nation when it went down

Two towers rose up from the east island of commerce and touched
the sky. Men walked on the moon. Oil was sucked dry
by two brothers. Then it went down. Swallowed
by a fire dragon, by oil and fear.
Eaten whole.

It was coming.

We had been watching since the eve of the missionaries in their
long and solemn clothes, to see what would happen.

We saw it
from the kitchen window over the sink
as we made coffee, cooked rice and
potatoes, enough for an army.

We saw it all, as we changed diapers and fed
the babies. We saw it,
through the branches
of the knowledgeable tree
through the snags of stars, through
the sun and storms from our knees
as we bathed and washed
the floors.

The conference of the birds warned us, as they flew over
destroyers in the harbor, parked there since the first takeover.
It was by their song and talk we knew when to rise
when to look out the window
to the commotion going on–
the magnetic field thrown off by grief.

We heard it.
The racket in every corner of the world. As
the hunger for war rose up in those who would steal to be president
to be king or emperor, to own the trees, stones, and everything
else that moved about the earth, inside the earth
and above it.

We knew it was coming, tasted the winds who gathered intelligence
from each leaf and flower, from every mountain, sea
and desert, from every prayer and song all over this tiny universe
floating in the skies of infinite
being.

And then it was over, this world we had grown to love
for its sweet grasses, for the many-colored horses
and fishes, for the shimmering possibilities
while dreaming.

But then there were the seeds to plant and the babies
who needed milk and comforting, and someone
picked up a guitar or ukulele from the rubble

and began to sing about the light flutter
the kick beneath the skin of the earth
we felt there, beneath us

a warm animal
a song being born between the legs of her,
a poem.

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Morning Song

My favorite pre-Easter poem is “What the Thunder Said” from TS Eliot’s The Waste Land. The search for water in a barren place resonates with my understanding of the Savior and His impact in my life. Not everyone reads it that way, of course, but I do. Unfortunately, it’s far too long a piece for me to post here (though that it hasn’t stopped me before), so here is a post about something entirely different, not related to Easter at all.

Morning Song
by Joy Harjo

The red dawn now is rearranging the earth
Thought by thought
Beauty by beauty
Each sunrise a link in the ladder
The ladder the backbone
Of shimmering deity
Child stirring in the web of your mother
Do no be afraid
Old man turning to walk through the door
Do not be afraid

 

 

 

Long ago I heard footsteps

I really want to say things about this poem, but I think if I say things, I will give away “the turn.” So here is a poem. Meet me in the comments and we’ll talk.

Long ago I heard footsteps
by Miriam Bird Greenberg

Long ago I heard footsteps
come to the door, and a man

knocking. We’ve had an accident

up on the road, can you help
he pled at the unanswered door,

and kept knocking.

He might have been a thief
but soon enough a woman’s howl

lit up the night, and I put a knife
in my belt. Around dawn

I figured their fortunes
might be worth change.

 

Little Father

Here is a piece by Li-Young Lee. I have only recently begun exploring his work, but it is phenomenal. If you enjoy this piece, or are moved by this piece, or intrigued, inspired, etc.– want more of this piece, check out more of his work from your local library, or online here. Also, if reading all this poetry encourages you to try your hand at it, pop over to my friend Stephanie’s blog. She’s teaching how to write a different poem every day this month, so you’ll have lots of chances to try different things.

Little Father
by Li-Young Lee

I buried my father
in the sky.
Since then, the birds
clean and comb him every morning
and pull the blanket up to his chin
every night.

I buried my father underground.
Since then, my ladders
only climb down,
and all the earth has become a house
whose rooms are the hours, whose doors
stand open at evening, receiving
guest after guest.
Sometimes I see past them
to the tables spread for a wedding feast.

I buried my father in my heart.
Now he grows in me, my strange son,
my little root who won’t drink milk,
little pale foot sunk in unheard-of night,
little clock spring newly wet
in the fire, little grape, parent to the future
wine, a son the fruit of his own son,
little father I ransom with my life.

The Quality of Mercy

Portia’s speech on mercy, from The Merchant of Venice. I may have posted it during previous years, but it’s worth repeating.

 

The quality of mercy is not strained;
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:
‘T is mightiest in the mightiest; it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown:
His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
But mercy is above this sceptred sway;
It is enthronèd in the hearts of kings,
It is an attribute to God himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God’s
When mercy seasons justice. Therefore, . . .
Though justice be thy plea, consider this,
That, in the course of justice, none of us
Should see salvation: we do pray for mercy;
And that same prayer doth teach us all to render
The deeds of mercy. I have spoke thus much
To mitigate the justice of thy plea;
Which if thou follow, this strict court of Venice
Must needs give sentence ‘gainst the merchant there.

 

Do Not Stand At My Grave and Weep

Welcome back, friends! It’s April, which means a poem every day– or at least every I remember to post one here. One of the things I love about poetry is its ability to take BIG FEELINGS and bring them down to small, manageable words, while still retaining the importance and weight of the original feelings. Prose conveys information; poetry, experience.

Do Not Stand At My Grave and Weep
by Mary Elizabeth Frye

Do not stand at my grave and weep.
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush,
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there. I did not die.

 

 

Interrogating My Privilege

“See Fewer Posts Like This” is privilege.

Privilege is when people tell you they feel threatened, and you roll your eyes.

Privilege is when people tell you they have been attacked, and you tell them they deserved it.

Privilege is when people tell you their life is hard, and you tell them its their own fault.

Privilege is when you are presented with irrefutable evidence that someone has been treated unjustly,

and you ask what they did to provoke the injustice.

Privilege is when someone says they don’t feel safe, and you tell them to stop talking.

Privilege is when you see someone suffering, and you cross the street.

Privilege is when someone is outraged over being treated unjustly, and you change the subject.

Privilege is when someone tries to explain to you, to prove to you, to share with you, their oppression and

you pull back a little

you curl your lip

you make that scoffing noise in the back of your throat

you sigh.

“Here we go again,” you think.

“So gauche.”

“Impolite.”

Privilege is being able to do all of those things, because it’s not your reality.

Privilege is thinking you’re not privileged, because you worked hard to get where you are.

Honey, we’re all working hard.

Privilege isn’t having an easy life.

Privilege is having the luxury to pretend everyone’s life is as hard as yours.

I am extraordinarily privileged.

___________________

I don’t want to have to explain or define privilege myself, so here’s the best explanation of privilege I’ve ever read.