Qwo-Li Driskill


Find a flint blade
Use your teeth as a whetstone

Cut your hair
Talk to shadows and crows

Cry your red throat raw

Learn to translate the words you miss most:
dust love poetry

Learn to say home

My cracked earth lips
drip words not sung
as lullabies to my infant ears
not laughed over dinner
or choked on in despair

They played dead until
the soldiers passed
covered the fields like corpses
and escaped into the mountains
When it’s safe we’ll find you
they promised
But we were already gone
before sunrise

I crawl through a field of
twisted bodies to find them
I do everything Beginning Cherokee
tells me
Train my tongue
to lie still
Keep teeth tight
against lips
Listen to instruction tapes
Study flash cards

How can I greet my ancestors in a language they don’t understand

My tear ducts fill with milk
because what I most love
was lost at birth

My blood roars skin to blisters
weeps haunted calls of owls
bones splinter
jut through skin
until all of me
is wounded
as this tongue