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.

from WHEREAS ["Whereas when offered..."]

WHEREAS when offered an apology I watch each movement the shoulders
                        high or folding, tilt of the head both eyes down or straight through
                        me, I listen for cracks in knuckles or in the word choice, what is it
                        that I want? To feel and mind you I feel from the senses—I read
                        each muscle, I ask the strength of the gesture to move like a poem.
                        Expectation’s a terse arm-fold, a failing noun-thing
                        I scold myself in the mirror for holding.

                        Because I learn from young poets. One sends me new work spotted
                        with salt crystals she metaphors as her tears. I feel her phrases,
                        “I say,” and “Understand me,” and “I wonder.”

                        Pages are cavernous places, white at entrance, black in absorption.
                        Echo.

                        If I’m transformed by language, I am often
                        crouched in footnote or blazing in title.
                        Where in the body do I begin;

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

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?

poem

I wake to
red sand I
sleep here
coral brick
hooghaan I
walk thin
rabbit brush
trails side-
step early
autumn
tarantulas 
pick desert
white flowers
on full days I
inhale fe-
male rain
I stop wheels
slow sheep
bounce drop

2