A Quest for Universal Suffrage



In late middle English

intercessory prayers,

a series of petitions.

Not the right—but the hope.



applicable to all cases

except those marginalized

and unnamed.

A belief, but not a fact.



In the trombone slide of history

I hear the suffer in suffragette

the uni uni uni in universal

each excluded ikwe: women

from five hundred tribal nations

mindimooyenh or matriarchs

of ancient flourishing cultures

still disenfranchised by race,

still holding our world together

in the dusky and lawless violence

manifest in colonial america.


Twenty-six million american women

at last granted the right to vote.

Oh, marginal notes in the sweet anthem

of equality, Indigenous non-citizens

turn to the older congress of the sun

seek in the assembled stories of sky

a steady enlightenment—natural laws

(the mathematics of bending trees,

sistering of nutrients—maizebeanssquash,

or wintering wisdom of animal relatives)

each seasonal chorus colored with resilience—

earth voices rising in sacred dream songs.


Even now listen, put on the moon-scored

shell of turtle, wear this ancient armour

of belonging. In the spiral of survivance

again harvest the amber sap of trees

follow the scattered path of manoomin

the wild and good seed that grows on water.

Oh water, oh rice, oh women of birch dreams

and baskets, gather. Here reap and reseed

raise brown hands trembling holy with endurance.

Now bead land knowledge into muklaks

sign with the treaty X of exclusion.

Kiss with fingers and lips the inherited

woodland flutes and breathy cedar songs.

Say yea, eya, and yes. Here and here cast

your tended nets—oh suffered and sweetly mended

nets of abundance. This year and each to follow

choose, not by paper but by pathway, a legacy:

woman’s work—our ageless ballad of continuance.

Copyright © 2020 Kimberly Blaeser. This poem was co-commissioned by the Academy of American Poets and the New York Philharmonic as part of the Project 19 initiative.