Joy Harjo

The sun falls onto the bristly backs of foraging javelina west of the desert
oracle, and the soft streets stiffen with the crawling dark. I drive South Tucson.
I am the one standing at a pay phone with a baby on her hip, just seventeen.
Do I need a job? Has the car broken down again? Does the license plate say
Oklahoma? I travel from a tribe whose name bears storm clouds, and have
entered a land where a drink of water is a way to pray.I was born of a blood
who wrestled the whites for freedom, and I have since lived dangerously in
a diminished system. I, too, still forage as the sun goes down: for lava
sustenance. The javelina knows what I mean. I can no longer imagine this
poem without them, either their ghostly shapes of light-years reversed, or
the tracks now skating behind them in the sand.
I want to stop the car and tell her she will find the way out of the soap
opera.The mythic world will enter with the subtlety of a snake the color of
earth changing skin. Your wounded spirit is the chrysalis for a renascent
butterfly. Your son will graduate from high school. You have a daughter
not yet born, and you who thought you could say nothing, write poetry.
And would she believe me?
And does she now?
Her husband comes out of the cheap room with more change and a Coke. I
cannot turn my head or lie; it has gotten me nowhere. I leave her there. But
for years I pray for rain, for her beaten spirit to lift up and rain and rain.
The cicadas enter with a song at the torn edge; they call forth the burning
sunset the color of lips of the unseen guardian of mist. A renegade turtle
hides beneath damp runners of a plant with red berries; tastes rain. I
imagine the talk of pigs and hear them speak the coolest promise of spiny
leaves. Their prevalent nightmare has entered recent genetic memory, as the
smell of gunpowder mixed with human sweat.
I have done time on their streets, said an elder with thick tusks of wisdom.
And I have understood this desert without them. It is sweeter than the
blooms of prickly pear. It is sweeter than rain.

From In Mad Love and War by Joy Harjo, Weslyan University Press.
© 1990 Joy Harjo

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