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My Brother

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It was bruise marks of hands that alluded to tracks of murder.
Her neck was twisted too many times in short rope,
and the tree too high for a small woman.

“He was here.” He says,
“He came to her new Man,
too, and said that he was coming for him next.”

The nightmare is black tongue.
No footprints.
The form in the room
laughs, “Ha Ha, Goody!”
He sees that it is vapor.

Later, when he cuts her down,
he knows that she came to him,
to him, she laughed.
The night will not make her unhappy.

He had no time to hunt,
since he had to bury
three more brothers the next day.
Car wreck on ice.

The insidious soul danced across the river
to entice other women to death.

If he is man,
he is subject to will.
If one prefers Archangels,
he can be cast into oblivion.

That does not comfort the people
and we must battle
with Bell and Prayer, for the brother.
This will take up the nights
and the rest of our thoughts.
The brother has seen the foreshadowing of events.
He will bring the damned down in his fisherman’s grip
into the mad boil of the river’s strength.

Elizabeth Woody, “My Brother” from Luminaries of the Humble. Copyright © 1994 by Elizabeth Woody. Reprinted by permission of University of Arizona Press.
Source: Luminaries of the Humble (University of Arizona Press, 1994)
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My Brother

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  • An enrolled member of the Confederate Tribes of Warm Springs in Oregon, Elizabeth Woody was born in Ganado, Arizona. She studied at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and earned a BA in the humanities from Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, and a Masters in Public Administration from the Hatfield School of Government at Portland State University. Her collections of poetry include Hand into Stone (1988) (reprinted as Seven Hands, Seven Hearts), winner of the American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation, and Luminaries of the Humble (1994). A practicing artist, Woody also illustrated Sherman Alexie’s poetry collection Old Shirts and New Skins (1993).
    Woody’s poetry reflects her close ties with her family, the natural world, and her people, a group she portrays with humanity and sympathy. Judy Elsley, reviewing Luminaries of the Humble for Weber Studies, noted: “Woody’s poetry acts as a...

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