I believe in the sun.
In the tangle of human failures of fear, greed, and
forgetfulness, the sun gives me clarity.
When explorers first encountered my people, they called us
heathens, sun worshippers.
They didn’t understand that the sun is a relative, and
illuminates our path on this earth.
After dancing all night in a circle we realize that we are
a part of a larger sense of stars and planets dancing with us
When the sun rises at the apex of the ceremony, we are
There is no mistaking this connection, though Walmart
might be just down the road.
Humans are vulnerable and rely on the kindnesses of the
earth and the sun; we exist together in a sacred field of
Our earth is shifting. We can all see it.
I hear from my Inuit and Yupik relatives up north that
everything has changed. It’s so hot; there is not enough
Animals are confused. Ice is melting.
The quantum physicists have it right; they are beginning to
think like Indians: everything is connected dynamically
at an intimate level.
When you remember this, then the current wobble of the
earth makes sense. How much more oil can be drained,
Without replacement; without reciprocity?
I walked out of a hotel room just off Times Square at dawn
to find the sun.
It was the fourth morning since the birth of my fourth
This was the morning I was to present her to the sun, as a
relative, as one of us. It was still dark, overcast as I walked
through Times Square.
I stood beneath a twenty-first century totem pole of symbols
of multinational corporations, made of flash and neon.
The sun rose up over the city but I couldn’t see it amidst the
Though I was not at home, bundling up the baby to carry
I carried this newborn girl within the cradleboard of my
I held her up and presented her to the sun, so she would be
recognized as a relative,
So that she won’t forget this connection, this promise,
So that we all remember, the sacredness of life.
Notes on the PoemThis week’s poem from the 2016 Griffin Poetry Prize winning collection, Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings (W.W. Norton & Company), by Joy Harjo. Of the collection, the judges said: “...Intermingling Mvskoke storytelling, rock-and-roll lyrics, cityscapes and personal address, Harjo’s poems are at once sweeping in their concerns and intimate in their tone and approach. Harjo’s is a poetics that is not afraid to speak directly when the moment warrants, nor to refer to traditions – literary traditions, folk traditions, musical traditions – with effortless erudition...” Listen to Joy Harjo read from her collection here.