Ishmael Angaluuk Hope! Of course I knew I was going to take a peek at some of Ishmael’s poems during this month. I’ve been following his posts on Facebook during our “hunker down” mandate, and they bring me a little closer to Tlingit-y home. He’s even translated Shakespeare speeches into Tlingit!
This poem felt so right for me over the last few days. I’ve been focusing on getting masks made for Elders, and I have been thinking a lot about them and their wisdom as I make the. Ishmael so captures a beautiful feeling about our aunties and grandmas.
ODE TO THE MATRIARCHS
By Ishmael Angaluuk Hope
In honor of Wooshkhindeinda.aat – Lily Hope, Saankalaxt’ – Ernestine Hayes, Joy Harjo, Tiffany Midge, Elissa Washuta, Heid Erdrich, Debbie Reese, and all Native women artists and writers.
I exalt the matriarchs, letterpressing
migration histories on revolutionary pamphlets,
the aunties, the grandmothers, aura-travelers,
watching over new students in the cafeteria.
I sing at the backporch of my soulmirror, sweet Lily,
of when we met at an elderberry patch in slush-
saturated Tongass, my hand to your
cheek cold with sleet. I pass food to the fire
for your grandmothers who loved themselves
enough to create you.
I praise our Native women poets, for what you remember,
chiseling glacier valleys, channel-swelled wetlands
cell-nourished in bodymemory, for shortcircuiting in spurts
the clenched grip on the backs of our necks,
for lighting a sap-lit stick miles from safe harbor.
And I am sorry. I ask your forgiveness, I bask
in the epochal Taku wind you clutched close
the last time you walked far inland.
And I walk beside you, clan mothers,
multicolored ribbons dangle off the loom,
as each one awaits your signature drawn in silt,
and I will return to my village and tell kinspeople
how pleased we were to dine on deer stew with you,
everpresent storytelling until the raven cawed.