1996 Originals Creative Writing award-winning poem from East Central University.Read More
We got the death sentence
today, and papers to sign saying,
we give up.
I won’t tell her what the papers
are because she’s only 7
but somehow she knows
because this morning she said,
Momma, please don’t call 911
when I die. Let me go to Heaven.
Still I refuse to sign them and
put them away, at least while
the relatives are here to see her.
But they refuse to see, bringing
candy that sears the blisters
in her mouth, and size 7 clothes
that swallow the size 4 shell
of the child I knew.
They don’t like to hear her talk
about Heaven when she should still be
fighting and all the time she is fighting
chills and fever, but waits to vomit
until they leave.
She begs for a Bible story and then I’m the one
with chills as the words
on the page remind me—
Let the children come to me.
I am from the county named after my
my great great grandfather who wore the headdress
of a Creek chief.
I am from beaded moccasins and braided hair,
and a white mother who never knew where she was from
but knew where she was going.
I am from a trail of tears and Indian boarding schools
Where braids were cut off, languages were forbidden
And names were changed from Soaring Red Hawk to
Where colorful beaded clothes and feathers were replaced
With ugly uniforms.
I am from dream catchers and tipis and burning sage,
From a chief, a warrior and Esta Cate Erkenakv
A Red man preacher.
I am from the red earth of Oklahoma
Where the blood still has a voice
From pow-wows and basketball tournaments.
I am from sweat lodges and stomp dances,
From fry bread and sofke nipke.
I was born the week of the siege at
Wounded Knee, when the warriors finally stood up
I learned the Lord’s Prayer in Indian sign language
but I wondered if the Creator could hear my hands
when the blood cried so loud.
Billy Graham said “Native America is like a Sleeping Giant.
The host people of the land must wake up and remember
Who they are.”
On the Pine Ridge reservation where another ten year old girl
Killed herself, a Lakota man named me “kimimila aska” which means
White Butterfly. “Don’t let them catch you, Kimimila,” he slurred
As he showed me the mass grave of his ancestors
at Wounded Knee.
“They tried to kill us…” then he laughed, “but we’re still here!”
His fist is militant and determined, but
still he drowned in the liquid genocide
And left behind yet another
Trail of tears.
But I am a dream-catcher and a warrior poet.
I braid my daughter’s hair and paint her face for a war of the Spirit.
Her name means “victory of the plains people”, and she will
Bring healing to the nations
We will beat the drum and dance
Until the earth is not red anymore
Until the tears have washed away the blood
And the Sleeping Giant is fully