Poems for World Indigenous People’s Day

by Hilary Horn

By Ana Lisa De Jong

THE LAND

We fight over the land.

We claim it through greed, 
or the patterns of decades,
and the entitlement 
of our father’s,

whose conquering spirits
were not restrained by right,
so much as 
influenced by privilege.

So still we try to claim,
what maybe was never ours,
but which we think in the gaining,
the ownership of is justified.

We fight over a piece of soil,
or a resource that registers as gold
in hands that would misuse 
if they could.

Or we fight over waters
that have ever sprung and flowed 
since our world first hung in this space
we call home.

And place becomes
a thing that we have borrowed,
that we think in the borrowing
we can now call our own.

Yes, we fight over the land.
Over who was here before us
and who might have stolen
what was not theirs to take.

And often our grief is justified,
as our ancestor’s tears
mingle in the rivers
of a land bleeding yet.

Yet I wonder if the earth,
if it had a voice that we could hear,
might remind us of its natural state
before any of us measured our claim.

I wonder if we all might possess a little piece 
if we saw it as something borrowed 
and for a time shared,
before being given back.

I know when I stand on a promontory 
by the ocean,
on a cliff-face that has been carved out 
for an eternity before me,

I feel more than the linkage with my ancestors,
calling from their many directions.
I feel the beating heart of an earth 
that in its generosity has claimed me.

 

HOME

Whoever said

home is a place
that we have grown up in,
and have traced its familiar lines
with hands
that know its contours;

whoever said

home is all we’ve ever lived,
and known,
have not understood
how home can exist
separate to experience.

How

there are places
in our journeying where,
on cresting a hill,
a certain scent in the wind
evokes a memory

a pull

that can feel like
both a call
to new terrains,
and a remembrance
of older landscapes.

Yes, whoever said

home is a place that we know,
have not known how
we can trace the edges
of something
and know its pattern.

And can feel

a sense of belonging
in a foreign field,
as though something in us
were native born
to its land.

Perhaps in one sense

we all belong to each other.
And the earth is the carpet
upon which
we flower briefly
until we dissolve into its ground.

And the features

of our experience,
so new to our eyes,
and yet familiar,
we have perhaps seen
in our dreams before this.

Zoe White

Zoe White

“Of all the things I wondered about on this land, I wondered the hardest about the seduction of certain geographies that feel like home — not by story or blood but merely by their forms and colors. How our perceptions are our only internal map of the world, how there are places that claim you and places that warn you away. How you can fall in love with the light.”  – Ellen Meloy, The Anthropology of Turquoise

 

NOT BEAUTIFUL

Tell me I’m not beautiful
when I’m rich in colour.
A tapestry made of ochre earth,
slow moving blue/green river,
and the sun’s golden glow
descending behind mountains.

For I am made up of everything
that I have seen, and more.
The record of a thousand years,
each sight and sound
of innumerable ancestors
burning behind my eyes.

Tell me I’m not of value
when I’m rich in dignity.
With a value that cannot be bestowed,
for it being already owned,
an inherent worth given
by divine intent.

Tell me I’m not beautiful
when beauty runs through my veins,
and the purity of my origins
keeps me anchored to the earth,
but standing on the shoulders
of humble giants.

Tell me I’m not as good as you
when I’m rich in colour.
A tapestry of every hue,
on a great circling planet
which claims every piece  
as essential as the other.

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