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Joy Harjo Joy Harjo


Yes that was me you saw shaking with bravery, with a government issued
rifle on my back. Iím sorry I could not greet you as you deserved, my

They were not my tears. I have a resevoir inside. They will be cried
by my sons, my daughters if I canít learn how to turn tears to stone.

Yes, that was me standing in the back door of the house in the alley,
with fresh corn and bread for the neighbors.

I did not forsee the flood of blood. How they would forget our
friendship, would return to kill me and the babies.

Yes, that was me whirling on the dance floor. We made such a racket
with all that joy. I loved the whole world in that silly music.

I did not realize the terrible dance in the staccato of bullets.

Yes. I smelled the burning grease of corpses. And like a fool I
expected our words might rise up and jam the artillery in the hands of

We had to keep going. We sang our grief to clean the air of turbulent

Yes, I did see the terrible black clouds as I cooked dinner. And the
messages of the dying spelled there in the ashy sunset. Every one
addressed: “mother”.

There was nothing about it in the news. Everything was the same.
Unemployment was up. Another queen crowned with flowers. Then there
were the sports scores.

Yes, the distance was great between your country and mine. Yet our
children played in the path between our houses.

No. We had no quarrel with each other.

Rushing the Pali

Thereís not enough time,
no puka to squeeze through
the head, then the shoulder
then the rest of it
a perfect creation
with hands, feet and
a mystical heart.
Itís too late.
Iíve promised a ride
to Hula, and then
I am to paddle
to Kewalo
and back in sprint time
that is after the cleaners
and a few phone
calls to figure out how
to remove
mildew from synthetics.
There is holy woven
through all life
if that is so then even in the rush
can be found
mythic roots for example how
this island was formed
from desire and fire
from the bottom of the sea
and how we came to be
here, next to the flowers
teased by winds
who travel freely back and forth
from the other side.
I am attracted
by the songs of the holy
curling indigo,
sea turtles alongside the canoe
or a mist of elegant consciousness
floating above the clatter
of annoyance.
There was dawn and the color
of ashes just before the sun
when the spirits of dancers before us
joined and the earth moved
lightly because she was
Singing is behind it.
We can sing ourselves
to the store or eternity as surely
as we were born into
this world naked and smeared
with blood and fight.
No time to keep putting it off
these thoughts of the holy
first one petal, and then
another, like sunrise
over the Pacific
until there is a perfect human.
And then rain over the Pali
as we slow for a stop,
and then the traffic starts
all over again.

I Am Not Ready To Die Yet

My death peers at the world through a plumeria tree
And the tree looks out over the neighborís house to the Pacific
And the blue water god commands this part of the world
Without question, rules from the kingdom of secrets
and tremendous fishes. I was once given to the water.
My ashes will return there,
but I am not ready to die yet
Nor am I ready to leave the room
In which we made love last night.

This morning I carry the desire to live, inside my thigh
It pulses there: a banyan, a mynah bird or young impatient wind
Until I am ready to fly again, over the pungent flowers
Over the sawing and drilling workmen making a mess
In the yard next door, over water
And the memory of your shoulders
In candlelight.

It is endless, this map of eternity, like a watermonster
Who swallows everything whole including the bones
And all the terrible words and how it blooms
With delectable mangoes, bananas
With the most faithful of planets,
But I am not ready to die yet.

And when it happens, as it certainly will, the lights
Will go on in the city and the city will go on shining
at the edge of the water—it is endless, this map
And the waves of longing from the kingdom of suffering
Will linger in the room in which we made love last night—
When I am ready to die I will know it,
As surely as I know your gaze
As we undressed close to the gods in that room.

There will be flowers, there are always flowers,
And a fine blessing rain will fall through the net of the clouds
Bearing offerings to the stones, to all who linger
Here— It will be a day like any other.
Someone will be hammering
someone frying fish
The workmen will go home
to eat poi, pork and rice.


I must keep from breaking into the story by force
for if I do I will find myself with a war club in my hand
and the smoke of grief staggering toward the sun,
your nation dead beside you.

I keep walking away though it has been an eternity
and from each drop of blood
springs up sons and daughters, trees
a mountain of sorrows, of songs.

I tell you this from the dusk of a small city in the north
not far from the birthplace of cars and industry.
Geese are returning to mate and crocuses have
broken through the frozen earth.

Soon they will come for me and I will make my stand
before the jury of destiny. Yes, I will answer in the clatter
of the new world, I have broken my addiction to war
and desire. Yes, I will reply, I have buried the dead

and made songs of the blood, the marrow.

It's Raining in Honolulu

There is a small mist at the brow of the mountain,
each leaf of flower, of taro, tree and bush shivers with ecstasy.

And the rain songs of all the flowering ones who have called for the rain

can be found there, flourishing
beneath the currents of singing.

Rain opens us, like flowers, or earth that has been thirsty for more
than a season.
We stop all of our talking, quit writing or blowing sax to drink the
mystery invoked
by the night rain.

We listen to the breathing beneath our breathing.

This is how we became rain.

Translated, this means a white flower behind your ear is saturated with
faith after the second overthrow.

We will plant taro where there were curses.

In Honor of Mo Who Is Our Cat, and We Are Hers

First we heard her heart,
a motor larger than her small mew self;
it filled her up, then us
when we touched.
And then the room
and everything in the room:
the couch, the windows, the door
and eventually every room in the house
and the yard
and beyond the yard to many years
of our lives—
This Mo
revealed herself a hunter:
of mouse
of roaches and any crawling thing
of birds
(most she could not catch and we
—the birds and us—were grateful)
of sunlight,
dog and plant leaf,
feet under blankets,
cords, wires
and laps and even computers—
This Mo became the first to answer every door
and greet every visitor from beyond
especially those who dislike cats—
(those she greets most heartily
she has a sense of humor).
This Mo of catdom
     in the winter grows
a stunning Siamese stole
she cleans daily to a shine
and gleam
and in the summer sheds it all
and stalks the house and yard
dressed ratty
in a jacket she still cleans
with fruitless effort—
This catward, forward Mo has weathered
the come and go of houses, dogs
and humans, the dragging her
and chasing her, and the
stealing of birds from the dominion of her
crying into her fur with her—
We know her as Mo: short for motor,
more better, more cat soul
per square or round inch—
most appreciative we are, and more.