About this poet

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

But
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
I know.

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?

From WHEREAS. Copyright © 2017 by Layli Long Soldier. Used by permission of The Permissions Company, Inc. on behalf of Graywolf Press, Minneapolis, Minnesota, www.graywolfpress.org.

From WHEREAS. Copyright © 2017 by Layli Long Soldier. Used by permission of The Permissions Company, Inc. on behalf of Graywolf Press, Minneapolis, Minnesota, www.graywolfpress.org.

Layli Long Soldier

Layli Long Soldier is the author of WHEREAS (Graywolf Press, 2017).

by this poet

poem
* bring us to dark knots the black 
eyes along white aspen skin to scrape 
with a rock on surface where I press 
I carve the initials of all and  **
***  bring us to a returning 	  no 
an urning a vessel of corpse
ash in the active state of being
held by two hands positioned 
gripping the sides to tip
poem

my first try I made a hit it dropped from morning gray the smallest shadow both wings slipped inward mid-flight the man barked Now I shot again and again a third time with each arrow through the target I thought was it luck or was it skill luck or skill as the last one fell

its awkward shape made me

poem

Inside the wheels of wrists and hands, a white shore of book and shell.
I kneel in the hairline light of kitchen and home
where I remember the curt shuttle of eyes down, eyes up—
where I asked, are you looking at how I’ve become two?