Qwo-Li Driskill


Raid archeologists’ camps
and steal shovels
to rebury the dead

Gather stories like harvest
and sing honor songs

Save the seeds
to carry you through the winter

Bury them deep in your flesh

Weep into your palms
until stories take root
in your bones
split skin

There are stories caught
in my mother’s hair
I can’t bear the weight of

Could you give me a braid
straight down the middle
of my back just the way I like
So I part her black-going-silver hair
into three strands
thick as our history
radiant as crow wings

This is what it means to be Indian
Begging for stories in a living room
stacked high with newspapers magazines baby toys

Mama story me

She remembers
Great Grandmother Nancy Harmon
who heard white women
call her uppity Indian during
a quilting bee
and climbed down their chimney with
a knife between her teeth

She remembers
flour sack dresses
tar paper shacks
dust storms blood escape

She carries fire on her back
My fingers work swiftly as spiders
and the words that beat in my throat
are dragonflies

She passes stories down to me
I pass words up to her
Braid her hair

It’s what she doesn’t say
that could destroy me
what she can’t say
She weeps milk