* bring us to dark knots the black 
eyes along white aspen skin to scrape 
with a rock on surface where I press 
I carve the initials of all and  **
***  bring us to a returning 	  no 
an urning a vessel of corpse
ash in the active state of being
held by two hands positioned 
gripping the sides to tip 
and scatter my night dream
of an acquaintance who
presented me a ledger opened
to a page handwritten in pencil
dates names and meetings  ****
*****  I said I don’t want to 
see it I don’t want to know
if my father betrayed me
as the words left 
my dream mouth I woke I shook
to the bone a hot line notched 
from heart to elbow throbbing 
vein-ache in my body how
I’d replaced another man’s name 
-a man I once loved I mean to say-
with the word father in a flash 
the sleeping eye ripped me 
from denial I’m not so complex
see my mind unclothed 
is a crying newborn 
aspen leaves in untimed 
wind-filled rhythm my mother 
turned eighty what at that age is left 
to surprise though 					

the tone here shifts to listen 
she said I don’t know if I ever said
when I was pregnant with you
I found out he’d cheated
I threw  ******  into the yard 
I locked him out 
pregnant with you I cried 
and I cried so long and hard
I thought I was going to
die yes she said it a heavy bass line 
beneath aspen music and timbre
I sit on the patio to smoke I think
at night always at night maybe
cause I was born / at night or 
my name means night God bless
my mother she believed
my name meant pure 
spirit so it may be the darkest 
hours are when I’m purest 
when I am I 		I am fluid
a clear stream over rock or
as poetry goes   ********
I think about a baby in utero I can’t help 
but wonder what the baby knows 
a study says babies and toddlers 
through impression not specifics
I rummage the syllables and stress
of each line in  *********
impression is a mark
on the surface 
caused by pressure or
a quick undetailed sketch or
the imitation 
of someone / I
carried her nine months 
beneath my own skin her small toes 
relaxed her eyes shut 
within me her fingertips
pressed into palms she made 		
                                                    a fist 
                                                    or was it 
a symbol
for the Sun what rising
what of battle my child knows 
scares me to the pure 
the one I 	    I burn in question	

* 		may all the grief
** 		may all
*** 		the loss
**** 		all your misdeeds
***** 		love of my soul
****** 		all his things
******* 	spit in a cup
******** 	night is a womb
********* 	the definition

More by Layli Long Soldier


I wake to
red sand I
sleep here
coral brick
hooghaan I
walk thin
rabbit brush
trails side-
step early
pick desert
white flowers
on full days I
inhale fe-
male rain
I stop wheels
slow sheep
bounce drop
sheep shit
me I grass
here I meta-
grass I sleep-
walk grasses
open eyes to
blue corn sky
to cook up
stews chunks
half-chewed thru
I am this
mouth without
hands with-
out arms 
bent down
face to plate to
some origin(al)
hunger aware
that I’m alone
and I alone am
the one -> pushing
the head
to eat


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

Ȟe Sápa, One

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.

Related Poems

Twenty-One Love Poems [(The Floating Poem, Unnumbered)]

Whatever happens with us, your body
will haunt mine—tender, delicate
your lovemaking, like the half-curled frond
of the fiddlehead fern in forests
just washed by sun. Your traveled, generous thighs
between which my whole face has come and come—
the innocence and wisdom of the place my tongue has found there—
the live, insatiate dance of your nipples in my mouth—
your touch on me, firm, protective, searching
me out, your strong tongue and slender fingers
reaching where I had been waiting years for you
in my rose-wet cave—whatever happens, this is.