Presence: The Heartspeak of Indigenous Poets: Laura Da’

By

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

***

Adornment

PICC line jangling
at my throat—
a trade sliver gorget askew.

Slim gauge needles
navigate shallow shales
of the periodic table,
facsimiles to benefit
pitchy blood.

Twenty-five
consecutive months,
salted ground metals
churn gutward.
I note each flood
in a miniscule hand.

Ink gluts
on the freshets
of my thistle pulses.
_____Sign my name; surveyor.


Laura Da’ is a poet and public school teacher. A lifetime resident of the Pacific Northwest, Da’ studied creative writing at the University of Washington and The Institute of American Indian Arts. Da’ is Eastern Shawnee. She is a recipient of the Native American Arts and Cultures Fellowship and an Artist Trust Fellowship. Her first book, Tributaries, won the 2016 American Book Award. Her newest book is Instruments of the True Measure, published by the University of Arizona Press. More from this author →