The land starts talking before we arrive
at my grandmother’s house:
the scritch-scratch of the jagged stones on
the gravel road as it separates from the paved black.
The barbed wire coils up to the gray sky.
The hills undulate like grassy waves.
I won’t tell the people in town what it’s like,
the ones who look at us out of the corners
of their eyes when we drive in.
Even the shield of my mother’s white skin isn’t enough.
Government land, I hear,
along the floorboards of the small grocery store
into my ten year old ears.
My father looks straight ahead.
He smiles different here.
I won’t tell them about the giant pine tree in the front yard
and how I climbed
the ladder of branches
till I was sitting in the sky.
I won’t tell them about the river that
moves with the wind
and the smooth stones,
shining like scarabs
that I collected to
Susannah Walker is an enrolled member of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians and a descendant of the Santee Sioux tribe of Nebraska. She has studied in France, taught English in Colombia, and went to graduate school at UNC. She currently works in western Canada and teaches courses in Indigenous Social Work.
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