Sippokni Sia

I am old, Sippokni sia.
Before my eyes run many years,
Like panting runners in a race.
Like a weary runner, the years lag;
Eyes grow dim, blind with wood smoke;
A handkerchief binds my head,
For I am old. Sippokni sia.

Hands, once quick to weave and spin;
Strong to fan the tanchi;
Fingers patient to shape dirt bowls;
Loving to sew hunting shirt;
Now, like oak twigs twisted.
I sit and rock my grandson.
I am old. Sippokni sia.

Feet swift as wind o’er young cane shoots;
Like stirring leaves in ta falla dance;
Slim like rabbits in leather shoes;
Now moves like winter snows,
Like melting snows on the Cavanaugh.
In the door I sit, my feet in spring water.
I am old. Sippokni sia.

Black like crow’s feather, my hair.
Long and straight like hanging rope;
My people proud and young.
Now like hickory ashes in my hair,
Like ashes of old camp fire in rain.
Much civilization bow my people;
Sorrow, grief and trouble sit like blackbirds on fence.
I am old. Sippokni sia hoke.


This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on November 4, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“Sippokni Sia” first appeared in Harlow’s Weekly, vol. 25, no. 32 (August 7, 1926). In “A Shrine to Oklahoma Literature, Pt. 2,” published on July 31, 2023, in Archive Serendipities, a website dedicated to the preservation of Oklahoma’s literary history, Cullen Whisenhunt, an instructor in the English department at Eastern Oklahoma State College, writes, “[Winnie Lewis] Gravitt saw success publishing poems regionally and often wrote in a Native voice, which blended the Choctaw language with a broken English popularized by the Creek poet/satirist, Alexander Posey. A prime example of this can be found in her most famous poem, ‘Sia Sipokni’ (‘I am old’), originally published in 1926 and later collected many times over (most recently in the 2020 Norton anthology When the Light of the World Was Subdued) [. . .]. Though much of her work lacks the bite of a satirist like Posey, Gravitt’s use of language gives them a similar character-driven feel, which allows her to infuse them with humor or more poignant satire when the situation calls for it.”