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Journal, Day Two

By Joy Harjo

I am up early, my shoulder scraping the dawn, just in time for the arrival of the drilling and sawing workmen next door. They have been at it for two months. Non-stop. Every day they arrive a little after 6:30, except for Sunday. There is no shutting off the racket. Our houses are open up here in Alewa Heights and the acoustics excellent, especially at night. I hear geckos, spates of coughing, and when the Korean speaking-in-tongues people behind us used their house as a prayer and singing camp, I was a reluctant participant. Their entreaties rolled through the house. Then they would eat together on paper plates, sitting all through the yard within a few feet of the back wall of my house. I could hear their turns at the toilet and once someone’s quick and passionate tryst. That house has been sold and torn down. Now a developer from Hong Kong who has become known for tearing down the local-style houses and building monstrosities has torn down the house, concreted the over-an-acre yard and is building two ugly houses that will tower over the neighborhood. The workers she’s imported from China, who work from sunup to night in their white pajamas and coolie hats, and even on Sundays and holidays aren’t here yet. She moves them back and forth to different properties. The overseer carries a mobile phone and wears designer glasses over his sneer. When the workers speak, the intonation sounds strangely like the Mvskoke/Creek language spoken at ceremonies, and when they’re working and speaking I am often suspended on an aural track between here and the ceremonial grounds in Oklahoma.

Now the generator next door is fired up, there’s hammering, and I don’t know how I’m going to write. When I write I depend on silence to reveal the poem. I am not like Leslie Silko, for instance, who makes a wall of music that allows her entrance to the other side, into the story. I need silence. Any woman writer who has raised children has learned how to make a “room of her own”—under a tin roof, trees, or at the kitchen table. When I started writing poetry in my mid-20s, with small children in student apartments, I grabbed writing time whenever I could. Usually it was between the children’s bedtime and three in the morning. Often it was in scraps during the day, while they were playing. Try researching the condition of the soul as it is revealed in the song of a cricket serenading from the corner where the broom hasn’t reached dust and cookie crumbs. I’d have to get up and sweep. Then feed the children. I learned that crickets are good barometers of weather. Their art was in rain songs. I managed to write a few good poems.


Instead of writing poetry I worked on this blog, wrote a letter to my son, I revised a lyric, recorded a podcast of a new poem, “I Will Get My Subterranean Back,” downloaded an Indie Band Manager Program, took the trash down, went to the Kapalama Post Office to mail out a piece of music equipment I sold on eBay, listened to interviews with Leonard Cohen and Truman Capote, and watched a Humvee blown up in Iraq on Google Videos, went to Star Market because I was out of fruit and bought a bag of lychee, talked with a couple of Cherokee friends of mine who were having lunch in downtown Tahlequah, began reading from my back up stack: Rakish Paddy Blues, A Macaronic Song by Gearoid Mac Lochlainn and John B Vallely, an exploration of Irish language and music. “The poems are inventive bi-lingual or ‘macaronic’travelogue that journey through song, dance, revolution, freestyle recitation, rap, blues, and the suppression of the old harpers, pipers, and poets to arrive at today’s sessions and the multi-cultural music mix of present day Ireland.” (I look forward to listening to the CD.), worked on revamping my Web site, studied three pages of instructions forwarded to me from Hewlett-Packard on how to make my scanner work on my three-in-one, practiced two songs I’m writing on saxophone, read Lorna Dee Cervantes’ blog, despaired at my over 200 emails that need to be answered, and various other tasks that needed to be done—wrestled with a few demons.


From Blackfoot Physics, p. 5, “Western education predisposes us to think of knowledge in terms of actual information, information that can be structured and passed on through books, lectures, and programmed courses. Knowledge is seen as something that can be acquired and accumulated, rather like stocks and bonds. By contrast, within the Indigenous world, the act of coming to know something involves a personal transformation.”

So live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart. Trouble no one about his or her religion; respect others in their view, and demand that they respect yours. Love your life, perfect your life, and beautify all the things in your life. Seek to make your life long and its purpose in the service of your people. Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide. Always give a word or sign of salute when meeting or passing a friend, even a stranger, when in a lonely place. Show respects to all people and grovel to none.

When you arise in the morning give thanks for the food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies only in yourself. Abuse no one and nothing for abuse turns the wise ones to fools and robs the spirit of vision. When it comes your turn to die, do not be like those whose hearts are filled with the fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song and die like the hero going home.


From notes written the morning of July 8th, Albuquerque:

I wanted to ask her, where did the bruises really come from?
I didn’t need to ask.
I knew.
Or knew at 3AM with the wind a train
In the speed of dark
Which is inverse to the speed of light.
I saw her spirit at the edge
Of the sleeping shore.
We were both afraid of the current.
This is a test, said the water.
Floating shit is not a poetic device or a literal translation
The earth takes another heavy breath.

Posted in Uncategorized on Tuesday, July 18th, 2006 by Joy Harjo.