Monday August 12 – “which Joy Harjo poem”?
There are so many possible answers to this question. Our campus is not yet used to all the rhythms of a fresh work year; we are still a little rusty about that word “ordinary” (i.e., office hours and their attendant meetings, an urgency to emails and walks across campus, new surprises found hiding in our calendars that stir a scattering of nano panics: “Yikes! is that due this week? Where did summer’s leisure go?” So a whole community of women and men start a year. The “Work Day in a Hard Time” Poetry List comes alive too.)
One deep soul friend and companion over decades, Joy Harjo, as a resonant go-to poet, has gotten more complex. “National Poet Laureate” opens her name-search in all sorts of directions. The on-line publication “Poetry” offers a cluster of Joy’s work from across years of paying attention: ( “Joy Harjo, Newly-Appointed U.S. Poet Laureate, Reads Her Poems, ‘Remember,’ ‘A Poem to Get Rid of fear,’ ‘An American Sunrise’ and More.”) For this early August day, I chose “Grace.” Readers of this list should not be surprised. I love “Grace;” so specific and close to the ground, alive with subtle memories, harsh and tender both.
Best to read the poem out loud, with pauses.
Have a blessed work week here in mid-August.
Today’s Post: “Grace” (last posted March 22, 2019)
I think of Wind and her wild ways the year we had nothing to lose and lost it anyway
in the cursed country of the fox. We still talk about that winter, how the cold froze
imaginary buffalo on the stuffed horizon of snowbanks.
The haunting voices of the starved and mutilated broke fences, crashed our thermostat
dreams, and we couldn’t stand it one more time.
So once again we lost a winter in stubborn memory, walked through cheap apartment
walls, skated through fields of ghosts into a town that never wanted us,
in the epic search for grace.
Like Coyote, like Rabbit, we could not contain our terror and clowned our way through a
season of false midnights.
We had to swallow that town with laughter, so it would go down easy as honey.
And one morning as the sun struggled to break ice, and our dreams had found us with
coffee and pancakes in a truck stop along Highway 80, we found grace.
I could say grace was a woman with time on her hands, or a white buffalo escaped from
memory. But in that dingy light it was a promise of balance.
We once again understood the talk of animals, and spring was lean and hungry with the
hope of children and corn.
I would like to say, with grace, we picked ourselves up and walked into the spring thaw.
We didn’t; the next season was worse.
You went home to Leech Lake to work with the tribe and I went south.
And, Wind, I am still crazy.
I know there is something larger than the memory of a dispossessed people. We have seen it.
Joy Harjo 2012.
(b. May 9, 1951)