November is Native American Heritage Month, and today’s Thoughtful Thursday brings you three poems from Native American poets.
“Autumn” is by Alexander Posey (1873-1908). Posey was a Muskogee Creek poet, journalist, politician and humorist. He founded the Eufaula Indian Journal in 1901, the first Native American daily newspaper.
“Remember” is by Joy Harjo (b.1951). Harjo, also a member of the Muskogee Creek Nation, has won many awards for her poetry (most recently the 2015 Wallace Stevens Award for proven mastery in the art of poetry by the Academy of American Poets). She is also a saxophonist who has released four award-winning CD’s of original music.
From Laura Da’, a member of the Eastern Shawnee Tribe, we have “Passive Voice”. Da’, a poet and a public school teacher, has won fellowships and awards including the American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation.
It is particularly fitting to celebrate Native American Heritage Month in this week’s Thoughtful Thursday before we head into the Thanksgiving holiday. Share these poems with your children and enjoy.
In the dreamy silence
Of the afternoon, a
Cloth of gold is woven
Over wood and prairie;
And the jaybird, newly
Fallen from the heaven,
Scatters cordial greetings,
And the air is filled with
Scarlet leaves, that, dropping,
Rise again, as ever,
With a useless sigh for
Rest—and it is Autumn.
Remember the sky that you were born under,
know each of the star’s stories.
Remember the moon, know who she is.
Remember the sun’s birth at dawn, that is the
strongest point of time. Remember sundown
and the giving away to night.
Remember your birth, how your mother struggled
to give you form and breath. You are evidence of
her life, and her mother’s, and hers.
Remember your father. He is your life, also.
Remember the earth whose skin you are:
red earth, black earth, yellow earth, white earth
brown earth, we are earth.
Remember the plants, trees, animal life who all have their
tribes, their families, their histories, too. Talk to them,
listen to them. They are alive poems.
Remember the wind. Remember her voice. She knows the
origin of this universe.
Remember you are all people and all people
Remember you are this universe and this
universe is you.
Remember all is in motion, is growing, is you.
Remember language comes from this.
Remember the dance language is, that life is.
I use a trick to teach students
how to avoid passive voice.
Circle the verbs.
Imagine inserting “by zombies”
after each one.
Have the words been claimed
by the flesh-hungry undead?
If so, passive voice.
I wonder if these
sixth graders will recollect,
on summer vacation,
as they stretch their legs
on the way home
from Yellowstone or Yosemite
and the byway’s historical marker
beckons them to the
site of an Indian village—
Where trouble was brewing.
Where, after further hostilities, the army was directed to enter.
Where the village was razed after the skirmish occurred.
Where most were women and children.
Riveted bramble of passive verbs
etched in wood—
breaking up from the dry ground
to pinch the meat
of their young red tongues.