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
of your hím’ k’up’íp
wrecked at the base
of a century that burns
through my slow blood
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
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
& pray héwlekce when your body is given away says the
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
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
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.
’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
Translated into English from Anishinaabemowin by the poet.
Gii maawanjidiwag ji-odaawewaad
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
Anokiijig, paandajig gizhigoon gimoodaanaawaan
ningaabikizaanaawaan bawaajigewinan ningaabii’anong
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.
From Milk Black Carbon (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2017) by Joan Naviyuk Kane. Used with the permission of the poet.
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.
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,
t’áá `ał sto’ bita’ doo yá’á’hót’ééh da,
jį´į´go łeezh bee hahalkaadi doo deení’igíí bik’i’dindíín łéh,
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.