The Chosen One
Someone somewhere said, “Someday, a son
Or daughter will be free enough and brave
Enough to sing our music, and to save
Our themes – when our Great Spirit, too, will stun
Those ears that hear, and when their eyes will run
With tears, at this sure harmony we gave,
To sorrow, that they chased us to the grave.”
Then I said: “Let me be that Chosen One.”
My elders were unanimously sober,
As though they had provoked me, I remember.
Black Davis nodded. Great Grandmother Song
Suggested I arrive in late October,
One sun before the first moon of November –
“for in the Fall, the Fallen Ones belong.”
I howled, I howled, the night he passed away
and left me to the lover and the louse.
Moroser than a mother or a spouse,
immobile in his daughter’s arms I lay —
terrified that his willful spirit may
not come with me, nor leave that vacant house
devoted to the moth ball and the mouse.
But no. Behind and over, as I pray,
he stands, and listens while the morning song
in Iroquois is loosened from my tongue.
And though I’ve been mistaken all along,
no sermon does he preach, that I was wrong,
but only shifts in shape — first old, then young,
once sage, next in a rage; now meek, now strong.
Navajo and Cherokee
Bemused, removed, and cool, they watched us go –
Two little Indians of copper, we –
Forbidden from their white society:
You, the purebred “Latin” Navajo,
I, the paler, cross-breed Cherokee,
A pinto* with my roots round Tennessee,
From origins I couldn’t let you see,
Who spoke with spirits which refused to show.
My closest friend, you never knew! You never
Imagined, as they killed you by degrees,
With each repellent rumor, every jibe,
Envying you, so nimble and so clever,
So beautiful and so inclined to please –
The tallest and most noble of our tribe.
*pinto: pejorative term for a mixed blood Caucasian/Native American
Jennifer Reeser is the author of four books of poetry, including Sonnets from the Dark Lady and Other Poems (2012) and The Lalaurie Horror (2013). X.J. Kennedy wrote that her debut “ought to have been a candidate for a Pulitzer.” Her poems and translations of French and Russian literature have appeared in POETRY, Recours au Poeme, The National Review, and anthologies including Everyman’s, Measure for Measure, Lon gman’s An Introduction to Poetry, and Poets Translate Poets: A Hudson Review Anthology. Her translations of Anna Akhmatova are authorized by FTM Agency, Moscow. Reeser’s own work has been translated into Persian, Czech and Hindi. This sonnet is from her collection, “INDIGENOUS,” forthcoming