Two Native Voices

Tomorrow is Homeschool Day at the Petroglyphs and the theme for this one is the arts.  We’re having a plethora of art supplies on hand and samples of Native American artwork.  We’ll be playing various CD’s and Daryl will be playing the Native American flute, which is slightly different from other flutes and has a beautiful sound.  We’re also encouraging families to bring their cameras and take photographs.  And I have printed out some Native American poetry by various artists to showcase another sort of art.

I thought I’d post two of the poems here, in case anybody wanted to read them with their kids and discuss the themes and meanings — or just enjoy them on your own.  🙂


This one is by a man who’s spent a lot of time in places I also consider home, like northern Minnesota.

At Once You Recall the Thunder Song

A village leaves every
door open
and no one returns

Old stone woman smudges
blue dishes under
the blue-scarred moon
at the guild hall

Bingo night eats up
the aspirin girl
on the blue television

Messages are never received
for one reason

For another a wild
dog upsets garbage

Auntie uses an air rifle
to silence the screaming
of passionate cats

None of the singers
will go into the mission

Under the influence
of gasoline fumes
a boy runs naked into
a barbed wire fence

The tribal custodian
dances with a BIA mop

The Chairman’s deep in a dream
of information
about using information
more effectively

From steep bluffs
you look deep into
the river
held back by pointless dreams
and simple songs of home.

Gordon Henry is an enrolled member of the White Earth Chippewa Tribe of Minnesota. His first novel The Light People won an American Book Award and his work has appeared in numerous journal and anthologies throughout the US and Europe. He is an Associate Professor in the Department of English at Michigan State University.


This one is by a woman who is of mixed heritage.  I love the switching of voices in it to show how divided she is.

The Truth Is
by Linda Hogan

In my left pocket a Chickasaw hand
rests on the bone of the pelvis.
In my right pocket
a white hand. Don’t worry. It’s mine
and not some thief’s.
It belongs to a woman who sleeps in a twin bed
even though she falls in love too easily,
and walks along with hands
in her own empty pockets
even though she has put them in others
for love not money.

About the hand, I’d like to say
I am a tree, grafted branches
bearing two kinds of fruit,
apricots maybe and pit cherries.
It’s not that way. The truth is
we are crowded together
and knock against each other at night.
We want amnesty.

Linda, girl, I keep telling you
this is nonsense
about who loved who
and who killed who.

Here I am, taped together
like some old Civilian Conservation Corps
passed by from the Great Depression
and my pockets are empty.
It’s just as well since they are masks
for the soul, and since coins and keys
both have the sharp teeth of property.

Girl, I say,
it is dangerous to be a woman of two countries.
You’ve got your hands in the dark
of two empty pockets. Even though
you walk and whistle like you aren’t afraid
you know which pocket the enemy lives in
and you remember how to fight
so you better keep right on walking.
And you remember who killed who.
For this you want amnesty,
and there’s that knocking on the door
in the middle of the night.

Relax, there are other things to think about.
Shoes for instance.
Now those are the true masks of the soul.
The left shoe
and the right one with its white foot.


And here’s a really wonderful poem “To a Woman Turning 80” that I’m also including.

It should be a really fun day.  I love art days!  I also love being able to plan these days with whatever I like!  😉  Now if people will only show up…….


2 thoughts on “Two Native Voices

  1. Oh the image of the airgun silencing the passionate cats and all of the poem about empty pockets and hands struggling, very good. I loved reading them. Haven’t gone to read the 80 year old woman poem yet. Just stopping to say hey have a really good HS day no matter who shows or doesn’t. Feel good all day.


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