by Jena McLaurin
If you listen to the river, to the wind,
the trees, the stones,
you can hear voices.
But these aren’t static on television, hushed by medication,
crayon scribbled, speaking in twisted knots in
crisp white zipperless suit voices.
These are moving in a circle, seeing time pass in the smoke,
smoothing over the earth, stories on cold nights voices.
These are speaking in home tongues, lifting children
into the air, wrapping in furs, stepping on crunching snow voices.
These are carving love letters on ship decks, laying paint to canvas,
perched high laughing on steel beams, polishing to a sheen voices.
These are hands held in defiance, marching once again,
grass bent by whiplash dances, music spreading through sunlit air voices.
These are moving through the river, through the wind,
through the trees, over the stones voices.
Originally from Georgia, Virginia McLaurin is of Eastern Cherokee and European descent. She is currently pursuing a doctorate degree in the Anthropology Department at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, with a primary interest in stereotypes of Native American peoples.
Virginia finds inspiration for her poetry in issues she has faced since childhood—difficult subjects such as identity, misconceptions of Native people, and the lack of accurate histories of colonialism; yet she also finds a great deal of hope through work with Native communities and particularly Native youth. Her time at the Josephine White Eagle Cultural Center at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and with the Native Tribal Scholars program for Native high school students, inspires profound optimism for the future of Indigenous peoples in the United States. She therefore aspires to write poems that reflect both the difficulties of being Native as well as the beauty and depth of Native cultures.