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on poetry & history – after joy harjo

On a panel of men who spoke about history & poetry, she sat quietly for much of it. They, the men, were saying strong things, good things but in authoritative voices, voices that knew they knew things. & she remained the only quiet one. She listened as if she weren’t listening. Her face looked forward. Her quiet seemed distant. It had a straight back. & then she interrupted one of the men & said something like,
“That reminds me of the time…” & she spoke of a fellow Native American teacher in her region who committed suicide near the end of one of the years, & how he must have been hurting & isolated & in pain, but not many people spoke about that, or spoke about his death or their loss when he died. It was swept under the rug, that was the phrase she used, & she said she was at home one day & looking out of the window & she noticed a black thread or string there, floating in the frame, & she observed it for a while, floating there, until she realized that that black string was grief. The grief of the professor, the grief of the students, her own grief, the grief of silence, a historical grief, & that she knew that it was her job to take that thread & put it somewhere, weave it into the larger tapestry (she made a gesture, then, as if that tapestry were just above her head). She said it was her job to put that grief in its place, or else someone else, some child or grown person would be out walking & just walk right into it, without knowing what it was they’d walked into, what they had, then, inherited in a way, what they were, then, carrying & feeling. The danger of that. The grief of that. & that was what she said about poetry & history. & that is all I remember from all of the things that were said that entire day.

from the black mariaFind it in the library

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on behalf of BOA Editions LTD.

Published in Aracelis Girmay Poems

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council, a State-based program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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