National Poetry Month Day 13: Ishmael Hope

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Ishmael Angaluuk Hope is an Inupiaq and Tlingit poet, Indigenous scholar and storyteller. His recent poetry collection is Rock Piles Along the Eddy (Ishmael Reed Publications). Recent work has appeared in Indian Country Magazine and is forthcoming in Tupelo Press’s Native Voices: Honoring Indigenous Poetry from North America and Poetry Magazine.

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ODE TO THE MATRIARCHS

In honor of Wooshkhindeinda.aat – Lily Hope, Saankalaxt’ – Ernestine Hayes, Joy Harjo, Tiffany Midge, Elissa Washuta, Heid Erdrich, Debbie Reese, and all Native women artists and writers.

I exalt the matriarchs, letterpressing
migration histories on revolutionary pamphlets,
the aunties, the grandmothers, aura-travelers,
watching over new students in the cafeteria.
I sing at the backporch of my soulmirror, sweet Lily,
of when we met at an elderberry patch in slush-
saturated Tongass, my hand to your
cheek cold with sleet. I pass food to the fire
for your grandmothers who loved themselves
enough to create you.
I praise our Native women poets, for what you remember,
chiseling glacier valleys, channel-swelled wetlands
cell-nourished in bodymemory, for shortcircuiting in spurts
the clenched grip on the backs of our necks,
for lighting a sap-lit stick miles from safe harbor.
And I am sorry. I ask your forgiveness, I bask
in the epochal Taku wind you clutched close
the last time you walked far inland.
And I walk beside you, clan mothers,
multicolored ribbons dangle off the loom,
as each one awaits your signature drawn in silt,
and I will return to my village and tell kinspeople
how pleased we were to dine on deer stew with you,
everpresent storytelling until the raven cawed.


Original poetry published by The Rumpus. More from this author →