Poem of the Week (excerpt), by Joy Harjo


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A long time ago, acting on instinct, I took a little piece of scrap paper and wrote “People You Can Call” at the top of it. Whichever name came to me, I jotted down, even if it were somehow surprising, like a friend I hardly ever talked to, someone I hadn’t seen in a long, long time. My dog’s name came to me and I added that to the list too.

For better and for worse I don’t belong to many groups. My sense of solidarity and community is often invisible, made of words like these words, small lights strung along a meandering, imaginary path. Looking at my list was comforting. These names had shimmered up easily, and somehow this meant they could help me call my spirit back from its wandering, as if it were a beloved child.

For Calling the Spirit Back from Wandering the Earth in Its Human Feet (excerpt), by Joy Harjo

When you find your way to the circle, to the fire kept burning by the keepers of your soul, you will be welcomed.

You must clean yourself with cedar, sage, or other healing plant.

Cut the ties you have to failure and shame.

Let go the pain you are holding in your mind, your shoulders, your heart, all the way to your feet. Let go the pain of your ancestors to make way for those who are heading in our direction.

Ask for forgiveness.

Call upon the help of those who love you. These helpers take many forms: animal, element, bird, angel, saint, stone, or ancestor.

Call your spirit back. It may be caught in corners and creases of shame, judgment, and human abuse.

You must call in a way that your spirit will want to return.

Speak to it as you would to a beloved child.

Welcome your spirit back from its wandering. It may return in pieces, in tatters. Gather them together. They will be happy to be found after being lost for so long.

Your spirit will need to sleep awhile after it is bathed and given clean clothes.

Now you can have a party. Invite everyone you know who loves and supports you. Keep room for those who have no place else to go.

Make a giveaway, and remember, keep the speeches short.

Then, you must do this: help the next person find their way through the dark. ‚Äč

Click here for more information about U.S. poet laureate Joy Harjo.

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