As a poet, I struggle with language—the English that America force-fed down my ancestors’ throats during assimilation and the Boarding School Era. My mouth struggles to reclaim the language of my ancestors as I try to learn words in my mother tongues.
I write these words while sitting on Ute, Cheyenne, and Arapaho lands. I type, We are still here, fingers on keys, and think about what it means to live as an Indigenous person in the United States, on Turtle Island today. I see no borders; I wish everyone could see through these eyes.
I think about my First Nations relatives to the north and our relatives from south of these manmade borders in what is known as México. I think about the caravan of relatives traveling north, the voter suppression of Indigenous people in North Dakota and of our Black relatives in Georgia, and the heavy history of a country that has weaponized words in so many unspeakable ways.
These times where my heart struggles to speak are when I need poetry the most.
November is Native American Heritage Month and in celebration I would like to fill the white space of the page with the words of Indigenous poets whose work nourishes my soul. The presence of these poets’ pulses through the literary landscape to help us survive our loneliness and silences, to bless us with light, and to bear witness to our presence in all forms.
– Tanaya Winder
Swallowing Kept Secrets
___________Mornings turn out green thread. Alder
____________________________and safflower – wilds of this ilk –
_____bloom in bloodstream. His chin soaks in lactic acid,
___________chlorine, and zinc. Untwist from blankets
into aftersmoke. Hill sage cusp in his eye.
___________He mouths oxeye and antelope sage. Pinioned,
________________he removes his shirt again to unveil wood rose
_____and feather cindered black. He calls for the fires
___________as he undresses into nightjars.
Clouds in his throat,
six months’ worth.
He bodies into me
half cosmos, half coyote.
We become night
road. Shirts off,
by an abandoned
trailer. “No one
We become porch
by moth wings,
powdered into ash.