my first try I made a hit it dropped from morning gray the smallest shadow both wings slipped inward mid-flight the man barked Now I shot again and again a third time with each arrow through the target I thought was it luck or was it skill luck or skill as the last one fell
its awkward shape made me run there pulsing on the ground I was astounded by its size a gangly white goose throbbed heaved its head my eyes dropped blood flowers opened in the snow of its neck behind my shoulder stepping down from a yellow bus
children made their way across the field I shot once more to end it quickly close range its death did I do this to spare the bird from suffering or to spare the children the sight my motives in humid cold yes my knuckles in the cold steamed bright red
because on my stomach in grass in rubber boots pockets and vest I slid along with that hunter I did as he directed from quiver my draw my black lashes in steely eyed release it felt good there it felt strong my breath in autumn was an animal there I thought did I really do this did I really yet what difference is muscle is an arrow powered upward or any flight to center when I did not hear it though I clearly mouthed poor thing poor thing poor thing
From WHEREAS. Copyright © 2017 by Layli Long Soldier. Used by permission of The Permissions Company, Inc. on behalf of Graywolf Press, Minneapolis, Minnesota, www.graywolfpress.org.
Ȟe is a mountain as hé is a horn that comes from a shift in the river, throat to mouth. Followed by sápa, a kind of black sleek in the rise of both. Remember. Ȟe Sápa is not a black hill, not Pahá Sápa, by any name you call it. When it lives in past tense, one would say it was not Red Horn either; was not a rider on horse on mount and did not lead a cavalry down the river and bend, not decoy to ambush and knee buckle
to ten or twenty, perhaps every
horse face in water.
Its rank is a mountain and must live as a mountain, as a black horn does from base to black horn tip. See it as you come, you approach. To remember it, this is like gravel.
Because drag changes when spoken of in the past i.e. he was dragged or they drug him down the long road, the pale rock and brown. Down dust, a knocking path. And to drag has a begin point (though two are considered): begins when man is bound; begins also with one first tug.
So we take the word to our own uses and say:
it begins with his head on the ground with his hair loose
under shoulders and shirt with snaps, they’re mother-of-pearl. Then begins a yank
and slide, begins his skin and scalp—
begins a break a tear, red to pink
to precious white; then begins what is
his skull, glisten of star
is the small way to begin.
But I could not.
As I am limited to few
words at command, such as wanblí. This
was how I wanted to begin, with the little
But could not.
Because this wanblí, this eagle
of my imagining is not spotted, bald,
nor even a nest-eagle. It is gold,
though by definition, not ever the great Golden Eagle.
Much as the gold, by no mistake, is not ground-gold,
man-gold or nugget. But here, it is
the gold of light and wing together.
Wings that do not close, but in expanse
angle up so slightly; plunge with muscle
and stout head somewhere between
my uncle, son, father, brother.
But I failed to begin there, with this
expanse. Much as I failed to start
with the great point in question.
There in muscle in high inner flight always
in the plunge we fear for the falling, we buckle to wonder:
What man is expendable?
Inside the wheels of wrists and hands, a white shore of book and shell.
I kneel in the hairline light of kitchen and home
where I remember the curt shuttle of eyes down, eyes up—
where I asked, are you looking at how I’ve become two?
This one combs and places a clip just above her temple, sweeping back the curtain of why
and how come. I kiss her head I say, maybe you already know.
Born in us, two of everything.
As in, each born to our own crown—the highest part of the natural head.
And each born to our own crown—a single power, our distinction.
But I’m dragging myself, the other me, every strand up to the surface. I remember
very little. So I plunge my ear into the hollow of a black horn, listen to it speak.
Not one word sounds as before.
WHEREAS when offered an apology I watch each movement the shoulders
high or folding, tilt of the head both eyes down or straight through
me, I listen for cracks in knuckles or in the word choice, what is it
that I want? To feel and mind you I feel from the senses—I read
each muscle, I ask the strength of the gesture to move like a poem.
Expectation’s a terse arm-fold, a failing noun-thing
I scold myself in the mirror for holding.
Because I learn from young poets. One sends me new work spotted
with salt crystals she metaphors as her tears. I feel her phrases,
“I say,” and “Understand me,” and “I wonder.”
Pages are cavernous places, white at entrance, black in absorption.
If I’m transformed by language, I am often
crouched in footnote or blazing in title.
Where in the body do I begin;