For Calling the Spirit Back from Wandering the Earth in Its Human Feet

Joy Harjo

Put down that bag of potato chips, that white bread, that
bottle of pop.

Turn off that cellphone, computer, and remote control.

Open the door, then close it behind you.

Take a breath offered by friendly winds. They travel the earth
gathering essences of plants to clean.

Give it back with gratitude.

If you sing it will give your spirit lift to fly to the stars’ ears and
back.

Acknowledge this earth who has cared for you since you were
a dream planting itself precisely within your parents’ desire.

Let your moccasin feet take you to the encampment of the
guardians who have known you before time, who will be
there after time. They sit before the fire that has been there
without time.

Let the earth stabilize your postcolonial insecure jitters.

Be respectful of the small insects, birds and animal people
who accompany you.
Ask their forgiveness for the harm we humans have brought
down upon them.

Don’t worry.
The heart knows the way though there may be high-rises,
interstates, checkpoints, armed soldiers, massacres, wars, and
those who will despise you because they despise themselves.

The journey might take you a few hours, a day, a year, a few
years, a hundred, a thousand or even more.

Watch your mind. Without training it might run away and
leave your heart for the immense human feast set by the
thieves of time.

Do not hold regrets.

When you find your way to the circle, to the fire kept burning
by the keepers of your soul, you will be welcomed.

You must clean yourself with cedar, sage, or other healing plant.

Cut the ties you have to failure and shame.

Let go the pain you are holding in your mind, your shoulders,
your heart, all the way to your feet. Let go the pain of your
ancestors to make way for those who are heading in our
direction.

Ask for forgiveness.

Call upon the help of those who love you. These helpers take
many forms: animal, element, bird, angel, saint, stone, or
ancestor.

Call your spirit back. It may be caught in corners and
creases of shame, judgment, and human abuse.

You must call in a way that your spirit will want to return.
Speak to it as you would to a beloved child.

Welcome your spirit back from its wandering. It may return
in pieces, in tatters. Gather them together. They will be
happy to be found after being lost for so long.

Your spirit will need to sleep awhile after it is bathed and
given clean clothes.

Now you can have a party. Invite everyone you know who
loves and supports you. Keep room for those who have no
place else to go.

Make a giveaway, and remember, keep the speeches short.

Then, you must do this: help the next person find their way
through the dark.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
In light of the Coronavirus crisis, Poetry Daily has started an impromptu series, What Keeps Us.
For the rest of March, we will post poems to sustain and uplift through trying times. Each poem is accompanied with an image by author-illustrator Juana Medina http://www.juanamedina.com. We thank you for reading and hope that you will share poems with your friends and neighbors. Please be well.

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Joy Harjo is the author of eight poetry collections and a memoir, Crazy Brave. The recipient of the 2017 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize and 2015 Wallace Stevens Award, she lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where she is a Tulsa Artist Fellow. She was appointed United States poet laureate in June 2019.

“When Harjo confronts tragedy, she becomes our conscience.”
—Grace Cavalieri, Washington Independent Review of Books

“Joy Harjo’s Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings is a marvelous instrument that veins through a dark lode of American history. The poet’s finely tuned voice goes where ‘Midnight is a horn player,’ driven by tribute, prayer, and blues, excavating names, places, and dreams. And at the end of this epic voyage the reader surfaces at sunrise.”
—Yusef Komunyakaa

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