Loosely translated in English
means “They say.” Tuscarora
and English do not run through
the cerebral cortex on the same
groove. They are like the Two
Row Wampum, a treaty pronouncing
relationships between our people
and the first white people arriving
on our shores. We made it after
those new people inexplicably
decided the sand and everything
following it was in fact theirs, decided
that because we were not Christians,
their god could not have meant it
for us. Then we said skoden, agreeing and
thinking they agreed, we must each travel side
by side like two canoes, neither crossing
in the other vessel’s movement forward.

Because they are different, the parts can not
be parsed in English. Eee-ogg, or Eee-awk
(depending on your family inflection)
is not neatly divided. Eee is not they,
ogg (or awk) is not say. And no, it’s not
Ewok, the animate Teddy Bears from Return
of the Jedi. And please don’t say “this is too
hard to remember.” If you can learn to say
Tatooine or Alderaan, or Obi-Wan Kenobi,
or god forbid, Jar Jar Binks, you can learn
to say Eee-awk (or Eee-ogg)

Tuscarora is a verb based language,
an action language, where English
loves its nouns more. In English
you want to know who is doing
scandalous things, the activity less
important, as long as it’s juicy.
In English, you want to say “I heard”
and not “They say,” and if you don’t
understand the importance of that
difference, it is good that we travel
our parallel paths, crossing only in
the wake we leave to dissipate behind us.

Copyright © 2020 by Eric Gansworth. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 18, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

Ask me about the time
my brother ran towards the sun
arms outstretched. His shadow chased him
from corner store to church
where he offered himself in pieces.

Ask me about the time
my brother disappeared. At 16,
tossed his heartstrings over telephone wire,
dangling for all the rez dogs to feed on.
Bit by bit. The world took chunks of
my brother’s flesh.

Ask me about the first time
we drowned in history. 8 years old
during communion we ate the body of Christ
with palms wide open, not expecting wine to be
poured into our mouths. The bitterness
buried itself in my tongue and my brother
never quite lost his thirst for blood or vanishing
for more days than a shadow could hold.

Ask me if I’ve ever had to use
bottle caps as breadcrumbs to help
my brother find his way back home.
He never could tell the taste between
a scar and its wounding, an angel or demon.

Ask me if I can still hear his
exhaled prayers: I am still waiting to be found.
To be found, tell me why there is nothing
more holy than becoming a ghost.

Copyright © 2020 by Tanaya Winder. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 17, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

They call. They message.

Then the occasional tag on social media.
I am wanting to check in on you… We
are thinking of you… I am so so sorry…

Then                  there                  I go
again                  pounding my head
sifting through thick
                            air
scattering names on a dusty floor

It is morning. It is the afternoon, maybe
the middle of some God-awful hour. I was

calm. I was hunkered low, shades drawn
maybe sipping a tea

                                                    No one
should see me    pacing kitchen

to porch

                                                 to bedroom

grabbing at lint or         shaking my wrist
                    in the mirror

                                                     Don’t call
don’t remind me there are soldiers

tramping on my lawn with gas
                                        and pepper spray.
I’ve just laid the sheets tight in my bed.
I’ve just trimmed the plants.
                                              And you are so white
and fragile with your checking. You are so late
so late so late.

Copyright © 2020 by Nandi Comer. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 4, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

acrostic golden shovel

America is loving me to death, loving me to death slowly, and I
Mainly try not to be disappeared here, knowing she won’t pledge
Even tolerance in return. Dear God, I can’t offer allegiance.
Right now, 400 years ago, far into the future―it’s difficult to
Ignore or forgive how despised I am and have been in the
Centuries I’ve been here—despised in the design of the flag
And in the fealty it demands (lest I be made an example of).
In America there’s one winning story—no adaptations. The
Story imagines a noble, grand progress where we’re all united.
Like truths are as self-evident as the Declaration states.
Or like they would be if not for detractors like me, the ranks of
Vagabonds existing to point out what’s rotten in America,
Insisting her gains come at a cost, reminding her who pays, and
Negating wild notions of exceptionalism—adding ugly facts to
God’s-favorite-nation mythology. Look, victors get spoils; I know the
Memories of the vanquished fade away. I hear the enduring republic,
Erect and proud, asking through ravenous teeth Who do you riot for?
Tamir? Sandra? Medgar? George? Breonna? Elijah? Philando? Eric? Which
One? Like it can’t be all of them. Like it can’t be the entirety of it:
Destroyed brown bodies, dismantled homes, so demolition stands
Even as my fidelity falls, as it must. She erases my reason too, allows one
Answer to her only loyalty test: yes or no, Michael, do you love this nation?
Then hates me for saying I can’t, for not burying myself under
Her fables where we’re one, indivisible, free, just, under God, her God.

 

Copyright © 2020 by Michael Kleber-Diggs. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 5, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

America mourns for the Indian
figure who knelt like a supplicant before dairy,
fatly blessed our milks, our cheeses,

anointed our lands & shores.
The Google tutorials surface—
the “boob trick:” score the box & fold to make

a window for her knees to jut through.
O our butter maiden
brought all the boys to the yard.

Twittersphere so prostrate with grief
petitions are launched for the Dairy Princess:
O our pat O Americana,

O our dab O Disneyesque,
O our dollop O Heritage.
The mourning procession bears witness:

Jolly Green Giant & Chicken of the Sea Mermaid,
Uncle Ben & Aunt Jemimah,
magically delicious leprechaun & Peter Pan—

even the Argo Cornstarch Maiden & Mazola
Margarine “you call it corn, we call it maize”
spokesIndian raise stalks in solidarity.

Mia, aptly named, our butter girl mascot,
the only Indian woman gone missing
that anyone notices, anyone cares about.

Copyright © 2020 by Tiffany Midge. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 24, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.