Raelee Fourkiller

my tongue

My tongue was ripped from my mouth
My father’s first
Stomped on, crushed, decimated
Don’t speak that indian way
We lost our knowledge, intricacies of life, connections
No knowing songs for mourning

I would have sung till my throat burned for all the pain ive felt
Yet i only have twenty-six letters and rules to describe homonyms
And a vocabulary to articulate theft
When my own mouth is unfamiliar to sounds cultivated over a thousands years
I hurt when i struggle how to remember to say i am aniyunwiya

I felt angry with him
He never told me
How to say goodbye, our last name, clan, i love you –

He had to say goodbye to his identity, his way of life
When he was a child of five
He entered in the world of the men with heavy boots and black souls
Indians must forget

The fifties must have been hard
For a boy that knew dirt roads and tsalagi
Knew gardens, the trees he passed, the fire and shellshakers

Forget your language
Replace with the three r’s
Forget your songs
Replace with the gospel
Forget your medicine
Replace with the bottle
Forget your clan
Replace with the blonde lady
Suppress your feelings
Fight our war

Leave who you are, the ones who walked before
Red, white, and blue – the only way to be true
Rip out your tongue, give yourself to the American Dream

I find no anger in my heart
sadness, grief
She is there – lovely she is beautiful, unwavering
she replicates the power of him, the ones before, and after
To come
To speak

One stitch across – nvgidihi
One down – edoda
One left – wado
To the right – gvgeyui

Mended and stitched with our tongue
I am her

 

Raelee Fourkiller is queer writer from the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma. She currently attends Brown University where she will be double-majoring in Education and Indigenous Studies. Her writing is influenced by her lived experiences as a queer, low-income Indigenous woman that employs themes of self-love, empowerment, cultural resurgence, and radical resilience.

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