KR OnlinePoetry

Ȟe Sápa


Ȟe Sápa is a horn is a mountain, is a black horn or black mountain, as it is the same in this language. Remember. And is not a black hill, not Paha Sápa, by any name you call it. When it lives in past tense, one would say it was not Red Horn either; was not a rider on mount on horse and did not lead a cavalry down the river and bend, not decoy to ambush and knee buckle
                                                                         to ten or twenty, perhaps every
                                                                                             horse face in water.
Its rank is a mountain and must live as a mountain as a black horn from the base to the black horn tip. See it as you come, you approach. To remember it, this is
like gravel.


Because drag changes when spoken of in the past i.e. he was dragged, or they drug him down the long road, the pale rock and brown. Down dust, a knocking path. And to drag has a begin point (though two are considered): begins when man is bound; begins also with one first tug. So we take the word to our own uses and say:
it begins with his head on the ground with his hair loose
under shoulders and shirt with snaps, they’re mother-of-pearl. Then begins a yank
and slide, begins his skin and scalp—
begins a break a tear, red to pink
to this precious white;        then begins what is
his skull, the glisten of star
to bone.



is the small way to begin.

But I could not.

As I am limited to few
words at command, such as wanbli.        This
was how I wanted to begin, with the little
I know.

But could not.

Because this wanbli, 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.
But it’s there in muscle in high inner flight always
in the plunge we fear for the falling in how we buckle to wonder:
What man is expendable?


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?
This one combs and places a clip just above her temple, sweeping back the curtain of why and how come. I kiss her head I say, maybe you already know.
Because I don’t need to question: Born in us, two of everything.
As in, each born to our own crown—the highest part of the natural head.
And each born to our own crown—a single power, our distinction.
But I’m dragging myself, the other me, every strand up to the surface. I remember
very little. So I plunge my ear into the hollow of a black horn,      listen to it speak.
Not one word sounds as before.
Circuitous,     this
I know.

Layli Long Soldier holds a BFA in creative writing from the Institute of American Indian Arts and is currently pursuing an MFA at Bard College. She resides in Tsaile, Arizona on the Navajo Nation with her husband and daughter. Her first chapbook of poetry is Chromosomory (Q Ave Press, 2010).