The morning air is all awash with angels . . . - Richard Wilbur The eyes open to a blue telephone In the bathroom of this five-star hotel. I wonder whom I should call? A plumber, Proctologist, urologist, or priest? Who is most among us and most deserves The first call? I choose my father because He's astounded by bathroom telephones. I dial home. My mother answers. "Hey, Ma, I say, "Can I talk to Poppa?" She gasps, And then I remember that my father Has been dead for nearly a year. "Shit, Mom," I say. "I forgot he’s dead. I’m sorry— How did I forget?" "It’s okay," she says. "I made him a cup of instant coffee This morning and left it on the table— Like I have for, what, twenty-seven years— And I didn't realize my mistake Until this afternoon." My mother laughs At the angels who wait for us to pause During the most ordinary of days And sing our praise to forgetfulness Before they slap our souls with their cold wings. Those angels burden and unbalance us. Those fucking angels ride us piggyback. Those angels, forever falling, snare us And haul us, prey and praying, into dust.
From Face by Sherman Alexie. Copyright © 2009 by Sherman Alexie. Used by permission of Hanging Loose Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Who says the Indian race is vanishing?
The Indians will not vanish.
The feathers, paint and moccasin will vanish, but the Indians,—never!
Just as long as there is a drop of human blood in America, the Indians will not
His spirit is everywhere; the American Indian will not vanish.
He has changed externally but he has not vanished.
He is an industrial and commercial man, competing with the world; he has not
Wherever you see an Indian upholding the standard of his race, there you see
the Indian man—he has not vanished.
The man part of the Indian is here, there and everywhere.
The Indian race vanishing? No, never! The race will live on and prosper forever.
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on November 14, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.
In dim light now, his eyes
straining to survey
the territory: here is the country
of Loss, its colony Grief;
the great continent Desire
and its borderland Regret;
vast, unfathomable water
an archipelago—the tiny islands
of Joy, untethered, set adrift.
At the bottom of the map
his legend and cartouche,
the measures of distance, key
to the symbols marking each
known land. What’s missing
is the traveler’s warning
at the margins: a dragon—
its serpentine signature—monstrous
as a two-faced daughter.
From Monument: Poems New and Selected by Natasha Trethewey. Copyright © 2018 by Natasha Trethewey. Used with the permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Put down that bag of potato chips, that white bread, that bottle of pop.
Turn off that cellphone, computer, and remote control.
Open the door, then close it behind you.
Take a breath offered by friendly winds. They travel the earth gathering essences of plants to clean.
Give it back with gratitude.
If you sing it will give your spirit lift to fly to the stars’ ears and back.
Acknowledge this earth who has cared for you since you were a dream planting itself precisely within your parents’ desire.
Let your moccasin feet take you to the encampment of the guardians who have known you before time, who will be there after time. They sit before the fire that has been there without time.
Let the earth stabilize your postcolonial insecure jitters.
Be respectful of the small insects, birds and animal people who accompany you.
Ask their forgiveness for the harm we humans have brought down upon them.
The heart knows the way though there may be high-rises, interstates, checkpoints, armed soldiers, massacres, wars, and those who will despise you because they despise themselves.
The journey might take you a few hours, a day, a year, a few years, a hundred, a thousand or even more.
Watch your mind. Without training it might run away and leave your heart for the immense human feast set by the thieves of time.
Do not hold regrets.
When you find your way to the circle, to the fire kept burning by the keepers of your soul, you will be welcomed.
You must clean yourself with cedar, sage, or other healing plant.
Cut the ties you have to failure and shame.
Let go the pain you are holding in your mind, your shoulders, your heart, all the way to your feet. Let go the pain of your ancestors to make way for those who are heading in our direction.
Ask for forgiveness.
Call upon the help of those who love you. These helpers take many forms: animal, element, bird, angel, saint, stone, or ancestor.
Call your spirit back. It may be caught in corners and creases of shame, judgment, and human abuse.
You must call in a way that your spirit will want to return.
Speak to it as you would to a beloved child.
Welcome your spirit back from its wandering. It may return in pieces, in tatters. Gather them together. They will be happy to be found after being lost for so long.
Your spirit will need to sleep awhile after it is bathed and given clean clothes.
Now you can have a party. Invite everyone you know who loves and supports you. Keep room for those who have no place else to go.
Make a giveaway, and remember, keep the speeches short.
Then, you must do this: help the next person find their way through the dark.
Reprinted from Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings by Joy Harjo. Copyright © 2015 by Joy Harjo. Used with permission of the publisher, W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. All rights reserved.