I am having a very disassociated day. Just a pileup of emotions that took me over and my body decided it had enough.

This brought me to today’s poem choice. I honestly looked and looked for an hour. I glanced over so many and nothing – not even poems I really liked – could reach me. I was thinking of just slapping the next one up here without comment and calling it a day. Disassociation can feel like apathy.

But I was literally clicking around on “Native American Poets” and this one finally stopped my idle clicking.

This poem feels like a lesson from an Elder on a day when I’m in need of song to reach me and remind me.


Gia’s Song

By Nora Noranjo Norse


Thung joo Kwa yaa na povi sah
Thung joo Kwa yaa na povi sah
       Tsay ohi taa geh wo gi wa naa povi sah
       pin povi
       pin povi do mu u da kun
       ka nee na nun dun naa da si tah.
On top of Black Mesa there are flowers
On top of Black Mesa there are flowers
       dew on yellow flowers
       mountain flowers I see
       so far away that it makes me cry.
She opened her eyes slowly,
       as if to awaken from a trance
           cast by a song,
           transporting her to childhood,
       Back to the flowers
       growing atop Black Mesa,
       so far and yet
       clearly brilliant.
Awake from the song,
       Gia focused on her daughter,
       anxiously awaiting
       to be taught a new song.
The old woman chose to take her time,
       she had learned from experience,
       attention is better paid by children,
       when there is a little pause,
           and mystery
               in storytelling.
Soon enough Gia spoke . . .
        “When I was a young girl,
        my family would camp
        below Kwheng sa po,
        during the farming months.
        We spent most of our days
        following my grandmother
        through rows of corn
        and playing in the streams below.
        One day white men came in a wagon,
        telling us about a school for Indians,
        run by the government.
        We were told this school would educate
        and prepare us for jobs in the white man’s world.
        None of us knew what any of it meant,
        but these men spoke sweetly
        offering grandmother a roll of baling wire
        for each child that went to school.
        Before we knew what was happening,
        we were sitting in the back of their wagon,
        on our way to government school,
        away from our families,
        to another man’s world.
        Often we would cry,
        out of loneliness,
        but this song helped us
        to remember our home.”
Get thoughtfully straightened
the pleats on her skirt,
swallowing the last of her coffee.
Smiling, she continued . . .
        “The government school taught sewing,
        I learned on an electric machine.
        By the time I returned to the village I could
        sew, but few of the people had heard of sewing machines,
        or even electricity.
        The machine I learned to operate as my trade
        could not be carried here and there,
        but this song you are learning,
        will always be carried in your heart,
        here and there.”