, April 22, 2024

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  •   1 min read
Photo by Karen Kuehn from the poet's website


Joy Har­jo​’s ode to fam­i­ly, to ances­try, and to the woman’s body, tru­ly makes sense if we under­stand that for Har­jo, there is no line sep­a­rat­ing the nat­ur­al world and her human body — that for her the evo­lu­tion­ary impulse is one of the imag­i­na­tion: ​“I was a thought, a dream, a fish a wing”. In ​“Grand­daugh­ters,” she cel­e­brates the body and the dynam­ic force of nature.

By Joy Harjo

I was a thought, a dream, a fish, a wing 
And then a human being 
When I emerged from my mother's river 
On my father's boat of potent fever 
I carried a sack of dreams from a starlit dwelling 
To be opened when I begin bleeding 
There's a red dress, deerskin moccasins 
The taste of berries made of promises 
While the memories shift in their skins 
At every moon, to do their ripening

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2019 by Joy Harjo, “Granddaughters” from An American Sunrise (W.W. Norton & Company, 2019.) Introduction copyright © 2024 by The Poetry Foundation.

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