Layli Long Soldier received a BFA from the Institute of American Indian Arts and an MFA from Bard College. She is the author of WHEREAS (Graywolf Press, 2017), which won the 2018 PEN/Jean Stein Book Award and was short-listed for the National Book Award. Long Soldier has received a Lannan Literary Fellowship, a National Artist Fellowship from the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation, and a Whiting Writers’ Award. She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Ȟe Sápa, Four
is the small way to begin.
But I could not.
As I am limited to few
words at command, such as wanblí. This
was how I wanted to begin, with the little
But could not.
Because this wanblí, this eagle
of my imagining is not spotted, bald,
nor even a nest-eagle. It is gold,
though by definition, not ever the great Golden Eagle.
Much as the gold, by no mistake, is not ground-gold,
man-gold or nugget. But here, it is
the gold of light and wing together.
Wings that do not close, but in expanse
angle up so slightly; plunge with muscle
and stout head somewhere between
my uncle, son, father, brother.
But I failed to begin there, with this
expanse. Much as I failed to start
with the great point in question.
There in muscle in high inner flight always
in the plunge we fear for the falling, we buckle to wonder:
What man is expendable?