We travel carrying our words.
We arrive at the ocean.
With our words we are able to speak
of the sounds of thunderous waves.
We speak of how majestic it is,
of the ocean power that gifts us songs.
We sing of our respect
and call it our relative.


Translated into English from O’odham by the poet.


’U’a g T-ñi’okı˘

T-ñi’okı˘ ’att ’an o ’u’akc o hihi
Am ka:ck wui dada.
S-ap ‘am o ’a: mo has ma:s g kiod.
mat ’am ’ed.a betank ’i-gei.
’Am o ’a: mo he’es ’i-ge’ej,
mo hascu wud.  i:da gewkdagaj
mac ’ab amjed.  behě g ñe’i.
Hemhoa s-ap ‘am o ’a: mac si has elid, mo d.  ’i:mig.

Used with the permission of the author.

Chilocco Indian School, Oklahoma, 1922: A disciplinarian says, There is no foolishness, do everything just so… such as keep your room clean, keep yourself clean, and no speaking of your Native language.

For now I can
             just whisper 
kál’a sáw

                  the ’óx̣ox̣ox̣ 
      of your hím’ k’up’íp

wrecked at the base
                         of a century that burns

through my slow blood


                                 kiké’t caught

in the blink                                       silúupe

so draw the eyelids
       shut & forget the fire 
tangled among the branches

of your spine
             start where the skin meets

half an autumn
       rusting the edge of winter that is

knifing                        between me & ’iin

you & ’iim ’ee


boy     have you forgotten us
                                                is not what they are saying

or are they        asks another century

        how are we remembered
in our choreography
of bones?


mouth your birthplace          boy
without mouthing off           tim’néepe    is at the heart

or the heart of the monster
                                         or the grass blood-soaked

from the fresh kill that finally isn’t
                                                             your father

& pray héwlekce when your body is given away       says the
     orphan boy

with lashes licked into his shoulders

forget ’im’íic   because they can         tear every lip from every

                                     of your mother


because you are
torn & because you are
what song fills
your throat
with the color
of carved out tongue

peewsnúut & hi’lakáa’awksa
              is what is voiced in the dark
& so what does it mean
                           asks the boy


as the moon
glows mouth open
to the unbearable
taste of ash
blown among the stars

that the boy learned
the ghost’s trail

that milky way
is lit by the dying
brightly echoed


c’ewc’éewnim ’ískit
so there had to be breathing

there had to be.







kál’a sáw—just in sudden silence
'óx̣ox̣ox̣ —sound of bones and flesh tearing
hím’ k’up’íp—sound of a mouth breaking
silúupe—at or in the eye
’iim ’ee—you (with emphasis)
tim’néepe—at or in the heart, where the mind and felt emotions are housed. Also, the name
of the Nez Perce creation site, Heart of the Monster, located in Kamiah, Idaho.
héwlekce—I disappear
’im’íic—your mom [more intimate] (as opposed to your mother)
peewsnúut—without tongue, or cut tongue, or removed of one’s tongue
hi’lakáa’awksa—he, she, or it is lit all through the night
c’ewc’éewnim ’ískit—the ghost’s trail / the Milky Way

They gathered to trade
where the stones were white
between midday and midnight
between the good earth and the great sea.

Foxes, feathers and fireflies to the north
fins, skunks and onions to the south
different echoes whispered
different memories made.

Workers and wanderers stealing days
forging dreams big as melting stars
sometimes fantastic
sometimes familiar.


Translated into English from Anishinaabemowin by the poet.


Doodooshabo’enaande Oodena

Gii maawanjidiwag ji-odaawewaad
endazhi waabshkaabikong
abitoo-ay’iing naakwek miinwaa aapta dibikad
abitoo-ay’iing minoakiing miinwaa chigaming.

Waagoshag, waawaateseg, miigwanag giwedinong aayaawaad
ginoozheyag, chigagoog, zhigangwishan zhawanong aayaawaad
babikaan bedowe dibaaswewewaad
babikaan miikwendamowaad.

Anokiijig, paandajig gizhigoon gimoodaanaawaan
ningaabikizaanaawaan bawaajigewinan ningaabii’anong
naningodinong maamakatch
naningodinong endaayang.

I let him do what he will to me—
we are traveling into the waves
and the ocean is torn by swells.

I am cautious. The moon,
it can barely be sensed,
it cannot be helped.

I learned something, I am learning.
I am untangling a rope.
I am caught by a breaking wave.

The boat is rolling from side to side
I tell of my going to town—
What he threw broke through,

it has broken away.


Translated into English from Inupiaq by the poet.




Nuyaqtuŋa. Taqqiq,

Ilisiruŋa, ilita.tuŋa.
Ilaiyairuŋa akłunaamiik.

Uaałukitaaqtuq umiaq.
Quliaqtuŋa aptauqtuaŋa—
Iitaaga pularuq.



From Milk Black Carbon (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2017) by Joan Naviyuk Kane. Used with the permission of the poet.

Mother thought:
First we will run, then we will walk.
She asked, “Do we ramble when we speak in tongues?”

Her lack of supervision made this happen.

The dusk, the dawn, everything in between: a mistake.
The morning,
her aching tooth,
the shovel dulled in daylight—
all digging fire from shallowing rivers.


Translated into English from Diné by the poet.




Amá yaa nitséskees:
Ałtse’ ałghaadiit’aash aado hazhóó’ógo yiit’ash doo.
“T’áá’ádzaagóósh yaadeeltí ahił hwilne’ó?” nihiłné.

Aadóó nihigi’deezį´į´’ígó `ahóót’įįd,
`i`ii`ą´  hayííłką´
t’áá `ał sto’ bita’ doo yá’á’hót’ééh da,
abíní biwoo’naaniigá’
jį´į´go  łeezh bee hahalkaadi doo deení’igíí bik’i’dindíín łéh,
t’áá `ałtso
tó áłchį´į´dígó niló˛ó˛ yits’ą´ą´doo’ko˛`hadéézką´’.


From Shapeshift by Sherwin Bitsui. © 2003 Sherwin Bitsui. Reprinted by permission of the University of Arizona Press.