National Poetry Month, 20144: Joy Harjo, First Nations Poet
Born in Oklahoma in 1951, Joy Harjo comes from both the Muskogee Cree nations. She has written 7 books of poetry in addition to two children’s books, The Good Luck Cat and For a Girl Becoming. Her latest book, Crazy Brave, is a memoir grounded in indigenous myths and ancestry. Joy Harjo is also a composer and singer, and she has compiled award-winning music of her own music and music of other talented singers. She combines the richness of her own beautiful music and voice with the traditions and ritual sounds and energy of First Nations musicians.
To pray you open your whole self
To sky, to earth, to sun, to moon
To one whole voice that is you.
And know there is more
That you can’t see, can’t hear;
Can’t know except in moments
Steadily growing, and in languages
That aren’t always sound but other
Circles of motion.
Like eagle that Sunday morning
Over Salt River. Circled in blue sky
In wind, swept our hearts clean
With sacred wings.
We see you, see ourselves and know
That we must take the utmost care
And kindness in all things.
Breathe in, knowing we are made of
All this, and breathe, knowing
We are truly blessed because we
Were born, and die soon within a
True circle of motion,
Like eagle rounding out the morning
We pray that it will be done
Perhaps the World Ends Here
The world begins at a kitchen table.
No matter what, we must eat to live.
The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the table.
So it has been since creation, and it will go on.
We chase chickens or dogs away from it.
Babies teethe at the corners.
They scrape their knees under it.
It is here that children are given instructions on what it means to be human.
We make men at it, we make women.
At this table we gossip, recall enemies and the ghosts of lovers.
Our dreams drink coffee with us as they put their arms around our children.
They laugh with us at our poor falling-down selves
and as we put ourselves back together once again at the table.
This table has been a house in the rain, an umbrella in the sun.
Wars have begun and ended at this table. It is a place to hide in the shadow of terror.
A place to celebrate the terrible victory.
We have given birth on this table, and have prepared our parents for burial here.
At this table we sing with joy, with sorrow.
We pray of suffering and remorse. We give thanks.
Perhaps the world will end at the kitchen table,
while we are laughing and crying, eating of the last sweet bite.