Happy National Poetry Month! My poem "Equilibrium" appeared in a blog carnival from Blue Print Review, Issue 26: Identity.
We're losing our culture, we're losing it..."
Haa kusteeyí kut kei ntoogíx', kut kei ntoogíx'..."
_—William Johnson, Keewax.awtseix
We are told “balance”
is the most important concept
in the Tlingit culture—Follow
the mother’s lineage, but in my house
so we are left to follow
the same old post-contact disease,
while they stare at our smallpox scars.
We don’t open windows.
Our floor slants, the couch
creeps toward the outside
world—and he doesn’t mind
coming home and walking uphill
to hug his children.
To whose clan do we belong?
Are we Eagle or Raven?
Who are our mother’s people?
Who are our father’s people?
All these questions are drowned
out by the sound of the television
channels changing into water,
pouring through the remote
control—the tide changers.
“See,” my children say, “we are
We don’t know our Tlingit names
so we walk around town with our mouths
gaping open like dying salmon,
sucking on the last breath
of water, struggling
to call out our own names.
Each step we take on one leg
shorter than the other—our clan
off-kilter—causes us to hold our arms out
wider and wider, steadying ourselves,
drawing in silty river water, pulling it back
next to our bodies, hugging close
all these Bitter Water People.