Becoming a Ghost

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.

About this Poem

“I spent the last few years traveling from reservation to city to college to community and everything in between. In my journeying I’ve picked up a lot of stories and narratives. I’ve learned a lot and witnessed so much that mirrors issues in other communities including my own. I’ve been blessed to see a lot of good: stories of triumph or reconnecting or strengthening our connections to culture. But I’ve witnessed pain, too. The older I get the more I see how our struggles as Indigenous people take root in colonialism and capitalism. This poem speaks to those roots in hopes of shedding light, helping others feel seen, and hopefully reminding us that we are still here, we exist, and we deserve to live.”
Tanaya Winder