all the oceans we contain

I seem to be on a roll with First Nations poets. This poem was shared in a workshop I did this past weekend with my always illuminating teacher, Marlene Schiwy. This beauty is from Linda Hogan. 

To Light


At the spring

we hear the great seas traveling


giving themselves up

with tongue of water

that sing the earth open.


They have journeyed through the graveyards

of our loved ones,

turning in their grave

to carry the stories of life to air.


Even the trees with their rings

have kept track

of the crimes that live within

and against us.


We remember it all.

We remember, though we are just skeletons

whose organs and flesh

hold us in.

We have stories

as old as the great seas

breaking through the chest,

flying out the mouth,

noisy tongues that once were silenced,

all the oceans we contain

coming to light.



I see your figure wrapped in skins

Today, a poem from Mary Tallmountain - a First Nations poet from Alaska whose work should be better known. This poem she dedicated to her grandmother. Matmiya means "tall mountain" in Athabascan. In an interview with Joseph Bruchac she shared that although her grandmother was physically thin, she thought of her as she thought of all Native American women -  growing out of the earth in a  lushly vegetative way. (ref: Encyclopedia of American Indian Literature)

Matmiya        for my Grandmother                  

I see you sitting
Implanted by roots
Coiled deep from your thighs
Roots, flesh red, centuries pale.
Hairsprings wound tight
Through fertile earthscapes
Where each layer feeds the next
Into depths immutable.

Though you must rise, must
Move large and slow
When it is time, O my
Gnarled mother-vine, ancient
As vanished ages,
Your spirit remains
Nourishing me.

I see your figure wrapped in skins
Curved into a mound of earth
Holding your rich dark roots.
I see you sitting.

from That's what She Said: Contemporary Poetry and Fiction by Native American Women (Indiana University Press)