List of Agencies for Tsunami Relief

I've been inundated with emails giving names of organizations that are providing relief from the tsunami devestation. This list, sent by a friend, is from NPR.org and so far is the most comprehensive, so I'm passing it onto you.

Tsunami Relief: Where to Give
From NPR.org, December 29, 2004

Below is a list of aid agencies collecting donations
for the victims of the deadly tsunami that struck
southern Asia:

Network for Good
Donate to multiple organizations online.
Action Against Hunger
247 West 37th Street, Suite 1201
New York, N.Y. 10018
212-967-7800 x108

American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee
South Asia Tsunami Relief
Box 321
847A Second Avenue
New York, N.Y. 10017
212-687-6200 ext. 851

88 Hamilton Ave
Stamford, CT 06902

American Jewish World Service
45 West 36th Street, 10th Floor
New York, N.Y. 10018

AFSC Crisis Fund
American Friends Service Committee Crisis Fund
1501 Cherry Street
Philadelphia, Pa. 19102
1-888-588-2372, ext. 1

American Red Cross
International Response Fund
P.O. Box 37243
Washington, D.C. 20013

CARE -- Asia Quake Disaster
151 Ellis Street NE
Atlanta, GA 30303-2440
1-800-521-CARE ext. 999
Outside the U.S., call 404-681-2552
CARE USA Home Page
CARE Asian Quake Disaster Donation Page

Catholic Relief Services
Tsunami Emergency
P.O. Box 17090
Baltimore, Md. 21203-7090

Direct Relief International
27 South La Patera Lane
Santa Barbara, Calif. 93117

Doctors Without Borders
P.O. Box 1856
Merrifield, Va. 22116-8056

Food for the Hungry, Inc.
Food for the Hungry
Asia Quake Relief
1224 E. Washington St.
Phoenix, AZ 85034

International Medical Corps
Earthquake/Tsunami Relief
1919 Santa Monica Boulevard, Suite 300
Santa Monica, Calif. 90404

Islamic Relief USA
Southeast Asia Earthquake Emergency
P.O. Box 6098
Burbank, Calif. 91510

Lutheran World Relief
South Asia Tsunami
PO Box 17061
Baltimore, MD 21298-9832
800-LWR-LWR-2 (800-597-5972)

Mercy Corps
Southeast Asia Earthquake Response
Dept. W
P.O. Box 2669
Portland, Ore. 97208

Operation USA
8320 Melrose Avenue, Suite 200 Los Angles, Calif.

Oxfam America
Asian Earthquake Fund
PO Box 1211
Albert Lea, MN 56007-1211

Save The Children
Asia Earthquake/Tidal Wave Relief Fund
54 Wilton Road
Westport, Conn. 06880

US Fund for UNICEF
General Emergency Fund
333 E. 38th Street
New York, NY 10016

Stop Hunger Now
SE Asia crisis
2501 Clark Ave, Suite 200
Raleigh, NC 27607

World Vision
P.O. Box 70288
Tacoma, WA 98481-0288

World Concern
Asia Earthquake and Tsunami
19303 Fremont Avenue North
Seattle, WA 98133

World Emergency Relief
2270-D Camino Vida Roble
Carlsbad, CA 92009


Catching Waves

December 29, 2004 Wednesday night

The lights of Honolulu are especially poignant tonight. The dark sky and the dark Pacific meet somewhere out there. I can already smell gunpowder from fireworks. Sales have tripled since last year when permits were required. The election put an evil network back into power and the economy is suffering. Here, the blast from the fireworks clears the air of beasts, demons, and bad accumulated thoughts, hence the loading up to dispel the evil. And I keep thinking of the tsunami and the thousands killed, suddenly and unexpectedly, especially as we paddled out tonight past the blinker buoy. The waters had a mild churn and roil because there’s a storm that’s still a few days out. I kept hearing a whale out not too far from where we were in the bay. She stayed out. The ocean reacts to every small and large thought and movement. She is never the same, and will change immediately according to a change in wind, atmosphere, a distant storm or from some other cumulative force. We’ve paddled out in relative calm, and fought our way back through a blocked channel. It’s not always that dramatic. Many times I’ve paddled out or flown over or walked along the shore of this beloved Pacific. Each year there’s more trash and less clear blue. This ocean is the blood of the earth, and the emotional field. Something has to give eventually from the weight of disrespect. When we went out on Sunday the water was jamming perfectly. We had an exhilarating paddle. It was the first time that I felt like I was dancing, that my spirit was coordinated and in time with the ocean, sky and other human travelers, from my belly all the way out. Tonight as we turned in our boat caught a wave and flew for a little while between heaven and earth. This same water that carried us in safely to shore could also destroy us, the city, and bury the island in just a few seconds. It has that much power. Something to think about…so next time you visit her, acknowledge her, sing to her, respect her.



This morning I am the beneficiary of the sunrise. I am grateful for this amazing being lifting up over the Pacific, over the Ko'olau's and this honoring of us here. I begin this day with that moment of grace. I breathe it in. And start all over. And keep moving towards love. If I can get out of my head and out of the hyper-critical field I'll make it. And if I stay there I'll make it anyway, though it may take centuries more of a hard-headed path! Sometimes I start it over every few minutes.

I re-read the Ruskin post and realize that my small perception, or rendering of perception isn't the whole story. Of course, I don't profess to have the answers or to even asking the right questions. I'm grateful for any communication, for communing with an audience, a place, a people, the sunrise. So I don't mean to sound ungrateful. We were all exactly where we needed to be. I trust that, or tell myself I should trust that because it is what was or is--and maybe I need to learn to gather up the disparate parts, or even, leave them where they are, gracefully, and acknowledge that placement, gracefully.

This morning I feel stuck between the urge for gracefulness and general ruggedness. This humanness feels all too convoluted and rough. My tendency is to fight. But I return again to the race of a few weeks ago, as I have many times since, to navigating the huge swells. We didn't fight the water as we manuvered, even flew. If we had, we would have flailed and gone over. So remember that, and just be with it, I tell myself--no matter how jammed the Friday before Christmas weekend traffic is in Honolulu.

We are each writing our story, with each breath, each thought, each action.


Finding Family in Yuba City

The next society or world I entered was the plant in Yuba City that my cousin worked at as an inspector before she retired a few years back. That afternoon after the Ruskin I was on a plane headed north to Sacramento. Then drove north through the dark up 99 to a small town where my cousin has lived since leaving Creek Indian territory in her early twenties. She was a champion barrel racer, known for her love and way with horses and animals.

The next day we went visiting her friends and old co-workers. She hasn’t been getting around very well on her own: knee problems and the general heaviness of life--one’s related to the other. We drove over to Yuba City, to a dried fruit and nut plant where many of her friends still work, a place she used to do inspections. It took us awhile to navigate up the walk and through the plant with my cousin and her walker. I imagine how frustrating it is for her, this woman at her best on the back of a spirited horse. She steered us to the cafeteria to wait for her friend. This friend has taken good care of my cousin. She has assisted her in the way someone would assist a beloved relative. I wanted to meet her and thank her.

The walls of the cafeteria were decorated with cubbies that held several hundred lunch boxes, ice chests and bags of the employees. The employees came in and out and were of just about every ethnic group possible in this country: Laotian, Mexican, local Indian, Irish, Pakistani, African and more. We sat there and visited with just about everyone who came through. Many knew my cousin and were surprised and happy to see her. We heard several stories as we waited there: of retirement, break-ups, weddings, deaths, struggles and other intrigues. What struck me was the connection between everyone. This was community; this was family, though there were cultural differences of huge leaps that could never be crossed. They spent most of their waking hours with each other and had been through everything together. I was accepted and dealt with as a human being, not as someone with a title or other status. I was my cousin’s cousin, first of all, and a visitor to their community, second of all. I was offered and accepted food, smiles, handshakes, hugs and good wishes.

Eventually my cousin’s benefactor got off her shift and came out. She was a giant of a woman: red-haired and tough and a heart bigger than the plant. She looks after a small ranch with horses and cows, some teenagers (one is her own), a few organizations, and some others she’s adopted, like my cousin. And she puts in a full shift every day at the plant. I admire her. You won’t see her name blazoned in Hollywood or the newspapers, but what she’s done of her life is worthy of such acknowledgement. She’s a real human being.

I was reminded of my years of struggle when my son was a few years old and we lived in Santa Fe on not much money. Though people didn’t have much in our poor community they were willing to share. In that neighborhood we shared food, good luck, the bad, all of it. And we mixed in a little singing, dancing and celebration. And we got by. And we seemed alot happier than many who appear to have it all.

Getting Down at the Ruskin Art Club


The Dance

Within a few days during my recent journey to California I passed through several different worlds, each embodying a certain state of mind, it’s own set of manners, sense of language and deportment. From the vantage point of a few days later each of these worlds appears as a dream, just like dreamtime, in which what happened is already gone, vaporous, but the consequences of behavior, the intentions set into place still exist and are moving forward in the same manner that the day is turning over and soon it will be morning and then night again. Over and over. And then soon that over and over is a year, ten years, a decade, a century, an age. And what of each of these small worlds?

The Abbey is the hip gay club in West Hollywood, just off Santa Monica Blvd. in West Hollywood. This urban funky recently expanded warehouse of a club reeks of high gay attitude and culture. It’s predominately male, with a few attendant fag hags, some lesbian tables and a few straight couples who’ve come to see and be seen. We were early and the traffic was easy, still I felt self-conscious and out of place. Here in this kingdom of perfect physical beauty and ambition, in the thump-throb of the industrial dance music holding all together in an energetic rhythmic cell, I was conscious of my not-good-enough clothes, face, stance. Or more than that, as I walked through the different rooms, all the different stories I realized I didn’t want anything or need anything from anyone here—I was a visitor for a moment in time. I didn’t come there by accident. The place intrigues me. One of my best friends frequents the place, as does a cousin. And when people come to town, we go or take them there. Like a tribal chief, but that’s another story.

In another, younger life I’ve lived for that electric dance when everything shines and hangs together perfectly and you want nothing more than to spin on the dance floor and celebrate your earthliness. Here, and now I’m invisible. The only thing that would change that is a change in dress, age and attitude. When my cousin introduces me most are genuinely friendly. They become human with a name, a story. Others look right through me, like the high-powered studio executive who gave a polite nod then fixed his eyes to the wall behind me. I didn’t have apparent power or connections. Then the equation is nothing from nothing.

As I walked through, from the black leather boys decorating the entrance, past the tables of self-conscious diners, to the huge rooms arranged for drama, each filled with the evening’s catch, I asked myself who am I and what am I doing here? It’s the larger question I ask frequently, wherever I am. I ask it to force myself to stay aware. I wanted to dance, for me, dancing is the most natural state of being. But no rooms were for dancing though people gyrated to the beat wherever they were: leaning one of several bars, near the fireplace, or standing in place talking with friends or potential friends or partners. And the music was too repetitive, too dead. There was no humanness in it. It was constructed of prefabricated beats, dedicated to elevating the pace of the hunt. I asked myself who I was, and felt my spirit cupped in my belly. I let it all alone as I walked through the sadness, fear, joy, sorrow and sheer life gathered there. I wanted nothing from that place, or anyone there. I was just passing through…

The next morning as I crossed La Cienega to head to the gym one of the “dancers”, a beautiful athletic black man crossing towards me, carrying his bag with toothbrush, music in his ears, and a bag big enough for a change of clothes. He was still wearing what he had on the night before. I made note of it all. There are reasons for everything.

(Next, the Ruskin Arts Club in Hancock Park, and the dried-fruit factory cafeteria in Yuba City)



(revised 12/12/04)

We were there at the mouth of the windblown channel
Near the end of a paddle
And the sky was opening up just as it was closing down
And Kokohead stood in a warrior cape of mist above us,
And below the boat rolled the blue kingdom of knowledge.
We paused there at the culmination of ten thousand paths:
six travelers pulling together in that sacred outrigger.
As the day lay down behind the crater,
And one year floated up behind another
And all the births, partings and deaths we carried with us
grew lighter.

copyright Joy Harjo December 7, 2004 Honolulu, HI

This was last night after a practice paddle, right at dusk. Amazing colors in death and birth. Like sunrise. Like sunset.


The Race

I left the house at 6:45 AM. A cardinal was singing. They're relatively rare here and when they appear I am always reminded of my father. This was helpful this morning as I made my way with a bit of trepidation and excitement to the Moanalua Bay and the Hui Nalu Canoe Club for the race. We'd left the club last night in the dark, after rigging the boats. This morning when we arrived, there was still rigging to attend to--The surf report included small craft advisory warnings with high winds and waves. And as one of my very experienced paddler friends said, after the race, if this had been a sanctioned race, it would have been called off. But it was a race traditionally run every year at this time, called, "Choose your Weapon Race" which means it's a race for one-man, two-man, six-man canoes and even jet skis. This year it was to raise money for a canoe paddler in need. The canoe community is very giving and often comes together to help one of their own.

I was in a mixed-crew of three women and three men. Heading to the starting line with all the other canoes reminds me of walking up the steps to a stage in a crowded auditorium to perform--a similar kind of energy. What helped me get over a paralyzing stage fright was to realize that the energy coming through was exactly that, energy to help. I had been wrongly turning it into terror. It's like electricity.

The race started before we even made it to the line up. I could feel the collective agreement to throw our minds like a net over what could have been demoralizing. Instead we paddled hard and kept going. Once we were out of the bay the ride began. How do I describe being in a relatively small outrigger negotiating capricious wind and waves? At least the wind (mostly) was at our backs. And the deep blue of the water was beautiful. I say this part after the fact because for most of the race we were concentrated on keeping moving despite whatever was thrown at us or rolled under and sometimes over. There were several points we paddle air not water because the boat was lifted up. The turning point was at Diamond Head buoy, literally and figuratively. Here we turned toward Waikiki, and here were relative giant waves we flew on and from. It was terrifying and exciting. Then we headed with a smaller push all the way to the end of the race. It took about two hours of solid race pace paddling. And we made it, with a good time, good crew and a steady pace.

Still, you can't help but notice the water; it's beautiful here. But eventually (at moments) you quit thinking about it. You become part of it.

In these races every seat counts. The most difficult seats are the stroker, in number one, and the steersperson, in seat six. Lurline McGregor was the stroker in our boat and she kept excellent pace, no matter the conditions. Her paddling was solid and consistent from the first stroke to the last. The steersperson is the director of the boat, and keeps it on course and calls out directions to all of the seats. We have to be ready to do whatever needs to be done to keep moving well, to keep from flipping, etc. . It's the position with the most responsibility. I'd wondered about our steersperson. Lisa Chang seemed so slight and unassuming. She was awesome. This was some of the most difficult water even the most experienced paddlers had been in, and we moved surely and consistently. I sat in seat four, called the power seat. The responsibility of seat four is to watch the ama (the balance to an outrigger, to watch means to lean on it and keep it from flipping up, which means then the boat will fly over) and to bail. With the kind of conditions we had today there was plenty of action on both accounts.

Making it to the finish was very emotional. We stopped after getting out of the way of other finishers. Some jumped in and went swimming, then we paddled to Anuenue to pack up the boats. Most of us sat there in awe. I am still in awe of the process of such a test of the body and spirit, and of the force and power of these seas. I always learn something from the water.


Upcoming Events and A Quandry

Thank you for all who wrote in to tell me that the name of the Choctaw poet opening up the evening at the University of Oklahoma a week ago is none other than Steven Sexton. Keep an eye out for those up and coming poets.

Also a note to those who have emailed me and not written back, my computer died, and with it all of my email addressed and unanswered mail. My replacement computer died,too, a few days later. Now I'm gingerly writing on this one.

Some upcoming events:
I'll be making a special appearance at Native Winds, Hawai'is Native book, CD, jewelry and craft supply store in Kaimuki, 1152 Kokohead Ave. Suite 202 this Saturday, December 4th. I'll be there close to 1 (depends on when the Leighton Look Fundraiser Canoe Race ends...that is, when my Hui Nalu canoe crew makes it from Maunaloa Bay to Magic Island...about 12 miles...forecasts are for 12 to 15 foot facing waves...that would be exciting, and treacherous). I'm scheduled to be there for book and CD signing, general visiting and hanging out, from 1-4PM.

The next event is the Ruskin Poetry Series in Los Angeles, where I'll be reading, and improvising with Chris Abani, one of my favorite poets/writers:


Ruskin Art Club’s historic clubhouse 800 S. Plymouth Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90005
in the Wilshire district, one block south of Wilshire & three blocks west of Crenshaw. 

*Joy Harjo & Chris Abani *      Sunday Dec.12, 2pm

Plus: A Special RUSKIN POETRY PRIZE Winner

Food & Refreshments  Reception
Authors' Books, The Los Angeles Literary Review & Broadsides for sale

For membership & Future Readings, Lectures, Workshops & Concerts
call:  310-669-2369   RuskinArt Club & USC Doheny Library Readings Info
Red Hen Press : 818-831-0649

This event is co-sponsored by Poets & Writers, Inc. through a grant it has received from the James Irvine Foundation       

Also, coming up is the Sundance Film Festival in Utah in January 2005. A Thousand Roads, a film co-written by Scott Garen and me, will premiere. It was directed by Chris Eyre. It's dramatic doesn't fit any prescribed form.  It will be the Signature film for the National Museum of the American Indian. It's a poetic journey of several short narratives of the lives of fictionalized native characters. John Trudell provides the narrative voice.     

And UCLA begins winter quarter in January 2005.

Otherwise, I am still puzzling over the riddle of how to communicate with an in-law who loves my relative and is wonderful to his children. I advised the marriage to my beloved relative because within him is someone who is capable of loving well. He has proven that promise. We circled each other in the kitchen during Thanksgiving cleanup. We gave us impetus to stay with it is that we basically care for each, despite my: Indian-poet-musician-thinker self, and his white-military-policeman-lover-of his family self. What I learned is that there is a race of people in town that he cannot tolerate. And in his position he has intimate power over them. And what do I do with this? I responded back with questions for information, about the drug of choice for lawbreakers, ice is making headway, dangers. In the questions, in my speech I attempted to imbue all with a humanity. I walked away uncomfortable with my failure, and the knowlege that I have, that is, this man who has been an exlempary family member would probably hate me if we didn't have a family connnection. And how would I feel if I saw him outside the circle of family? I realize that I too make my own judgements, my own assumptions. How do any of us see past the world we assume from parents, teachers, schools, television? Some wisdom may be inherent in these sources, in sane times, maybe even now. But in a system that values money and acquisition of the material over compassionate values most are flawed. Maybe what I've assumed as true all this time, isn't. There are basic laws, however, and the most basic is loving care to whatever we are doing, to whomever we come into contact with...even our enemies. I realized in that potent, hot moment of the circling that there was no word, no poem, no song I could say at that moment that would change him. I wanted him to see the foolishness of his assumptions, past the white, evangelical structure of meaning in that small town of Tulsa. And I would probably be the only one who just might open him a little to compassion, or to seeing us as humans. Maybe he's thinking the same thing, puzzling over my hard mind.

And then again, what is the purpose of poetry and song? To hammer with a message? To delight with verbal gymnastics? To punch and slam with rhetorical surprise? To convince?

That's not my experience with it. That doesn't mean to say poetry cannot perform all of these functions, for me it's about something deeper, a soul talk, a genuine response of the soul. It's hard to hear to soul with all this clatter.


The Human Trail

This morning in Glenpool, Oklahoma I woke to a grey winter sky. I miss the sun. Haven't seen it since Saturday morning in Albuquerque as we lifted off and headed East over the Sandia Mountains for Dallas. This has been quite a tour. Started off from Honolulu last Monday to LA. Spent the night in an airport hotel of coming and going passengers and crew. Then to Albuquerque and directly to a warm greeting and short visit at UNM. That night up to Santa Fe to prepare for a residency at IAIA. Between Wednesday and Thursday noon I had back-to-back individual appointments with talented student writers, and a workshop and a reading. Everytime I have visited the school the high school student I was there at the old IAIA campus in the late 60's hangs over my shoulder. She's long, lanky in a pair of worn, cheap bell-bottoms from a department store in Tulsa. Wears a Navy pea coat and silence. Silence defines her. She's listening, taking it all in. Doesn't know the basics of communication yet. Slides into a room sideways. She will have to learn how to address people, the wind, the sun, the spirit of a poem or a song.

This is not an unusual story. It's common. Especially in Oklahoma. Last night I was blessed with a wonderful audience at OU in Norman, Oklahoma. The event was set up with little notice by Robert Warrior and Craig Womack. They paid attention to every detail. This kind of care lets the poetry and music know they can take off their coats and hang, have a good time. And that's what happened. Starting with the readings of two students poets, a Choctaw student, Steven (if anyone can tell me his whole name I'd appreciate it so I can include it here) and Jeanetta Calhoun. Then a wonderful introduction by Rosemary McCoombs Maxey, mostly in Mvskoke. Quite an honoring. Then the performance of music. I dedicated the song "Grace" to my mother and spoke about her struggle to make songs and sing....how I saw her sing once with the hot country swing band, Leon McAuliff and his Country Boys, and how she had contacted a Hollywood publisher and her her tunes ripped off; one became a Johnny Mathis hit, and how behind this was a problem that has come to be known in recent lingo has a "self-esteem" problem, which I attributed it to being a woman in Oklahoma in the 1950's. I feel the ache of the need to sing in that song...That night the performance flew. We ended with a wild round dance to funky, the whole standing room audience, around the room.

Another thing I've noticed on this trip from Honolulu to Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Tulsa, Stillwater and Norman is that those students who are fluent in more than one language appear to have more confidence. Each language is a library of history, mythology, culture, being. Each gives entrance to an amazing field of knowledge, deepens thought and character. So I'm back to practicing Mvksoke every day, little by little. And in Albuquerque freshed up my Navajo some speaking with my Dineh son-in-law Tim Chee.

At the dinner Saturday night at the Red Fork Native American Film Festival in Tulsa, provided (I believe) by the Hickory Ground Church I spoke with my cousin George Coser who reminded me of how most of the older people knew both Creek and Cherokee and often Spanish,too, as well as English. At the film festival, (which used to be known as the Muscogee Nation Film Festival but the name was changed because the audience thought they were coming to see films about the town of Muscogee, Oklahoma) Lurline McGregor, the Hawaiian videographer showed two DVD's: Eagle Song, the music video, and "Reality Show" a little 8 minute piece of a bit of my life. Despite my general uncooperativeness with having a camera on me, they came out gracefully. The audience appreciated them. And then I performed.

The theme of this one week tour has been: "Be careful of what you say and your behavior because no matter where you are someone is watching and listening." Every day someone has come up to tell me of how something I said to someone on the road, ten years ago, five years ago, a few, evoked some change, made some kind of difference. In one instance the person was furious because I called them on something they didn't want to see. Some of these moments attributed to me I take credit for, or remember saying. Others I don't. I have been mistaken for my cousin Suzan Harjo, for any other Harjo out there, and Leslie Silko and Mei Mei Berssenbrugge and I used to be constantly mistaken for each other. And who knows, maybe we all have doubles out there.

To conclude, before stepping out into the mad holiday preparations I want to remind myself once again, and whoever is listening, that whatever we say and do is being recorded...well, maybe it is,too, by U.S. surveillance, but in the end even that will fall away. What won't fall away is each of our kind acts, each of our words, thoughts and deeds. Taking a daily account of all these every night, and making fresh resolve will help the trail through this too human world. So here we go again.


Strange Thoughts

Strange thought here, after talk about getting a bug zapper and all the moral and health implications for the humans who don’t like getting attacked by squadrons of mosquitoes when they go out behind the house to do laundry, but don't like to kill creatures either. Maybe this planet Earth is a huge human zapper. Think about that.

Rain, The Inward Journey of Politics

November 14, 2004 Sunday morning in Honolulu

It's five a.m., still dark and very raining. Yes, very raining. I am to be at Hui Nalu Canoe Club in an hour for a paddle out into the bay. Do I feel like it? No. Will I go? Probably. It might be raining at the beach; it might not be. It's like writing, which is as much about the process, the practice of writing as it is about the poem, story or song.

Following is a very edited blog I'm posting now. I waited a few days to come back to it:

November 12, 2004

Once again I woke up between four a.m. and five. I don’t fight it anymore. I get up and write. Most of it is junk struggle on paper. Important is the stuff of dreams. Dreams are atmospheric poems, of mythic, mystic and physical layers to be deciphered and read. Some of them are, anyway. Others, I’m convinced, are ways for the body and spirit to throw off poisons. Try eating a pizza and drinking a few beers just before sleep and see what you dream.

Lei, my wonderful lomi lomi massage friend in Waimanalo confirmed that many of her female friends and clients are depressed, when I daringly stated (for me, I don’t like to admit things like this) that I might be a little depressed. Many of us are depressed since the election. The voters have just given a Christian fundamentalist and corporate regime permission to destroy the world. Women tend to carry these currents in their bodies, or maybe we just admit to them. We are all made of water. I feel stymied, like my spirit is wearing lead boots, walking up a mud mountain that’s been stripped bare of all animal and plant life and I’m alone. What especially bothers me is the thought that at least half this country would vote to support an administration that lies, kills and steals. There. I’ve said it. Yes, there probably was vote tampering and other forms of dishonesty at work. But each of us has relatives who support the current government, though they have suffered from the terrible economy, don’t have a job, or support for educational programs, are having a hard time buying clothes and shoes for the family, and are afraid that their lifelong American dreams will be lost by the liberals who will let the terrorists get us. Maybe it’s really fear that’s ruling the country. And the struggle is not to give into it, whether it’s our beloved duped ones who are afraid, or we who are afraid because we dare to look past the television and our bellies to what we see happening all around us.

The rest of the world is aware. In Durban, the first night of the Poetry Africa events, each of the poets was asked to read or speak for 3 to 4 minutes. I was introduced as only: “a poet from the U.S.”, after some succinct comments about the U.S. government by a verbally gifted young praise poet... I learned what it felt like for the first time in my career, to stand up in front of an audience who didn’t want to hear from me because I represented a bully country. I have had audience members who were forced to attend by teachers, spouses or friends, and I can usually turn them around...but this was rough. And I didn't turn it around in 4 minutes. One young South African woman said to me later during a panel of women writers: “Your words didn’t move me, but when you played your horn, I blacked out.” And that's why I took up saxophone, to go where the words couldn't go. But don't all poets strive to go beyond the words?

(A few horn wailings here.)

Hence the huge gap in my blog during and after South Africa. I went with a great love and respect for that country, for what that country has meant for many of us who has watched and listened and spoken of the struggle. I’ve studied for answers in our tribal dealings with the colonizers. Have met with and admired many South African poets, writers and humanists, like Sandile Dikeni, Lesego Rampolokeng, Mzwake Mbuli, Nadine Gordimer, and of course, one of the world’s most developed human beings: Nelson Mandela. (Another side note: Zoleni Mkiva, the young praise poet who rose to prominence in 1990 when he was called upon to praise the recently released Mandela and has since traveled extensively with him, told me that the role of a praise poet is to call attention to anything that needs to be addressed politically-personally; they’re linked. Even if the leader is your employer. He said that Mandela was consistently impeccable in his behavior, always. And that he’s had to say a few things publicly about the recent president, but the president has taken it good-naturedly.)

Now, the sun is up. I’ll put on some lighter hiking shoes, some good music, some faith and head up the mountain again.

Back to Sunday morning. Please note that Mahmoud Darwish, the Palestinian poet of resistance has a new book of poetry translated and published in the U.S.. He lived in exile for years because his family was forced to flee to Lebanon in 1948 after the Israeli Army occupied and destroyed his family's village. They sneaked back the next year. When he was eight he read a poem which called the attention of the Israeli military governor. After that he was often imprisoned, for either reading poetry or traveling within the country without official papers. He roamed for years outside of his country, and returned in 1996 to live in Palestine, but couldn't live in his village of origin. He now lives in Ramallah. His new book, UNFORTUNATELY, IT WAS PARADISE, Selected Poems, translated and edited by Munir Akash and Carolyn Forche, with Sinan Antoon and Amira El-Zein is now out from the University of California Press, Berkeley 2003. I say "now out" because this is the first review I've read on the book, in Poetry Flash, the Summer/Fall 2004 issue....It's been out at least a year. The reviewer, Tiffany M. Higgins reports: "...while in these mid-to-late career poems, he transitions to a poetry which, while still fiercely resistant, has become less attached to drawing attention to specific political objectives than to the inward journey, which, while situated among crowds, must, in the end, be individual. Then she quotes from a poem:

It's possible we might find an answer
to the questions of who we are when we are alone."

"My prison cell grows by a hair to make room for the song of a dove."

I will have to check out the translation. Four translators points to possible problems. Check out his body of work, nonetheless. He's important. Especially in these times.


Report from the End of a Regime

There were humans
Sleeping, and the sky ached with dark
As it prepared to give birth to dawn
A chuk chuk of gecko
And a young tradewind
Weaved through the mists
Carrying the essence of a migrating whale
Down the hill in Chinatown
A sailor sodden with war
Zipped up from a piss
And cursed everything he found
In the ruins
One god broke against another
And so it was.

c Joy Harjo November ll, 2004 Honolulu


South Africa, Angels and Fear

I'm back from South Africa and have been back, dealing with a mean jet lag.
The last image from that mythic and historical country is from my last morning there, in Cape Town. I took a boat out to Robben Island. The last stop on the tour of the island which was used as a penal colony as well as a leper colony from the time of the first takeover by the Dutch, was Nelson Mandela's old cell. It was the size of the shanty town "houses" that run alongside the Cape Town International Airport. They're tiny. I thought about the size of Nelson Mandela's spirit and how it could not be caged here. I thought about his integrity despite years of terrible tests of injustice. He didn't give in to the illusion of false power, to his own self-doubts which were monsters imported by colonization. His spirit prevailed. It could not be destroyed. That prevailing love is what I carried back with me.

Tonight re-reading some of Carolyn Myss', Anatomy of the Spirit for healing of certain conditions. Here's one of my favorite stories.

“I met a woman named Ruth while I was conducting a weeklong workshop in Mexico. Ruth was staying at the same hotel—she was not part of my workshop. She was wheelchair-bound due to crippling arthritis, a case as extreme as I have ever seen.
One morning I got up uncharacteristically early and went out to the patio with a cup of coffee to make notes for my lecture that day. I noticed Ruth sitting by herself, listening to classical music with an old tape recorder. I had met her the day before, but this morning I couldn’t stop staring at her, although I didn’t think she noticed because she had her back to me. I was wondering how she coped with her terribly crippled body, which had also become obese because of her inability to move. Suddenly she turned her head, smiled and said, ”You’re wondering how I manage to live in this body, aren’t you?”
I was so stunned that I couldn’t cover my tracks. “You caught me, Ruth,” I said. “That’s exactly what I was thinking.”
“Well, come on over here, and I’ll tell you.”
As I pulled my chair up to hers, this seventy-five-year-old woman said to me, “You like New Age music?”
I nodded, and she said, “Good, I’ll put this tape on while I tell you about myself.”
With Kitaro playing in the background, this remarkable Jewish woman told me her story. “I was widowed when I was thirty-eight years old, left with two daughters to support and few ways to do it. I became the most manipulative person you could ever imagine. I never stole anything, but I came close to it.
“When my older daughter was twenty-two, she joined a Buddhist community. I raised my girls in a traditional Jewish household in New York City, and she enters a Buddhist community! Every time she came over to visit me, I asked her, ‘How could you do this to me? After all I’ve given up for you, how could you? We must have had that conversation a hundred times. Then one day she looked at me and asked me, ‘Mom, are my clothes dirty? Am I unclean in some way? Am I doing anything that offends you?’
“I said, ‘You must be on drugs. That’s it—they’ve got on drugs.’ She responded. ‘Yes, I’ve tried drugs.’ So you know what I said to her then? I said, ‘Get me some,’ and she did. She brought me some LSD. I was fifty-five years old, and I dropped acid.
I nearly fell out of my chair. I could hardly picture her taking LSD.
She continued,”Do you believe in angels?”
“Yes, of course,” I said.
“Good, because that’s what happened to me next. I took the LSD, and I had an out-of-body experience. I found myself floating above my body, lighter than air itself. And I met this lovely being who said she was my angel. She complained to me, ‘Ruthie, Ruthie, do you know how difficult it is to be your angel?’
“I said I’d never thought about it, and my angel said, ‘Let me show you what you look like to me.’ And then she pointed to my double—only my double was completely tied up in thousands of rubber bands. My angel said, ‘That’s how you look to me. Each one of those rubber bands is a fear that is controlling you. You have so many fears that you can never hear me trying to talk to you, to tell you that I’ve got everything under control.’
“Then my angel said, ‘Here’s a pair of scissors. Why don’t you cut all those rubber bands and free yourself?’ And that’s just what I did. I clipped every single one of them, and with each one I cut, I felt this unbelievable surge of energy come into my body. Then my angel said, ‘Now don’t you feel better?’ I told her that I felt lighter than air and happier than I had ever felt in my life. I couldn’t stop laughing. My angel said, ‘You’re going to have to get back in your body now, but before you do, I have to show you something.’
“She showed me the future, and I saw myself full of arthritis. She couldn’t tell me why I would have to endure this condition, just that I would have to. But she said she would be with me every step of the way. Then she put me back into my body. I told my daughter everything that had happened, and both of us laughed almost continually for two months. She had I have been close ever since that experience. When this arthritic condition began ten years ago, I thought, oh well, this isn’t being crippled. I was far more crippled when I could walk; I was always so afraid of being alone, of taking care of myself, that I wanted to keep my daughters near me so I would never have to take care of myself. But after that experience I never felt afraid again. I believe that my physical condition is to remind me never to have fear. Now I talk to my angel every day, and I still laugh more each day than I ever did before.”

Pps. 170-172


Song for the Poor in Spirit

My brother in hair dreaded by despair and lack
Of food or love, crosses the street,
Against the light. We wait.
And curse and wave because he’s holding time and
we have important work to do.
He’s too familiar; it aches to see and I cut my eyes
With shame.
He was a lover from my early years who loved
To brush my hair,
He was the brother who dreamed of flying
For the navy, for anywhere
Then the favorite uncle who stirred up
Rabbit 's beat-up drama of sacred trickery,
As he cooked eggs for us.
We are each the bearer of the human tale, and
This morning it’s unbearable.
He has daughters and sons, a father and mother.
The light will change.
All fresh bearers of life will come forth as we climb into the sun.
They will.
They will.

c Joy Harjo October 13, 2004


Navigating the Warning

From eternity to never is a river
Of renegade stars
Home-starved planets
Past the stream of thinking-without-direction:
That’s where it comes from—
You’ll have no exact address in the mess of humanness
And go down in the punch of red history and earthly cowboys.
The body is a helix
Of the dreams of ancestors
Cultivate the wisdom here, in molecular funk and grease
Navigate swiftly
Beyond the scurry of the mind having a drink
With friends at the café
Beyond the limb of knowledge thick with crows
Perched on a broken overhang
Over crashing fresh waters,
Beyond time.

For Reggie

c Joy Harjo October 9, 2004 Honolulu


Shine On

Woke up this morning in a shine after being with a group of native people I know and love on the other side of this reality show. I didn't want to leave. The visit nourished me. This reality show co-starring all of us, lately seems beset by an especially nasty family of demons. They've infected the country, from our so-called leaders to smaller local bureaucrats and would-be bureaucrats who get inside our heads. They are beastly with greed and the need for attention. They infect with blindness, lack of ability to hear clearly. Lies appear to be truths.

I've had to remind myself that my name is "joy", not greed or envy or sadness or grief. If I think "love" then there's no room for any other thoughts. And it's the nature of love to connect and grow more love. If I think "revenge" or "envy" then they revenge and envy grow immense and stick their butts in my face and I can see nothing else and I'm miserable. They also have a tendency to fight, and fart particularly malodorous streams.

REPORT from my contact in Durango, Colorado: Her sister who's had heart trouble grew herself a new pathway to her heart. Her doctor has never seen anything like it. We know it's possible. We can grow ourself a peaceful nation. Heart by heart.

What does this have to do with poetry, music, and writing? It's all part of the process. What we think, so, do and are becomes the stuff of our poetry, music and writing.

And this from an interview with Cecile Pineda: “…I am viewed by people eager to claim me as a Latina writer, and this acclamation certainly makes me proud. But it is not entirely representative. My mother bore me. She was as mired in the notions of the Old World, in its rationalities, its explanations, its conventions, its certainties, and its Protestantism, as my father was a product of his Catholicism and of his own colonial past. Perhaps in the tension between the two I managed to find a voice. But more than more genetic or cultural considerations, I claim necessity. I live in a world in which 40 men control wealth equal to that of nearly 80 countries where, to maintain their hegemony, countless acts of mayhem and massacre must occur every day. This is the reality that forms and re-forms my days as it does those of all the people on this hapless planet. I do not think anymore that writing—mine or another’s—can change the world. Perhaps in their small way, writers can answer for those who are voiceless in their extreme deprivation and suffering. But at best, in the very smallest scheme, writing can provide a moment of grace, both for her who writes and him who reads, in a very dark world.”

From The Bloomsbury Review Interview September/October 2004

Check the Poetry Africa site to see what's happening there. I'll be performing there in a few weeks.

More later.



The powwow was this weekend in Honolulu. Honolulu powwows are different than Oklahoma or other smack-in-Indian-country powwows. This isn’t Indian country; it’s Hawaiian country. Most of the Indian population is from the military. And it’s strange to see a powwow arena stretched out between two banyan trees. But it was a powwow nonetheless, including an adroit Apache mc from southern California, invited head dancers and drums, a fry bread stand and several vendors arranged in the circle, including my friends Bill and Mary Tiger. I camped most of the morning until late that after noon with Bill. Mary left to teach hula after we set up the booth with their crafts and a few of my CD’s.

We had a perfect observing position, could see everyone else, including the spare arena of dancers. It was the smallest powwow in number of dancers I’d ever seen, except one I went to in Des Moines when I was a student in graduate school in Iowa in the late seventies. My friend Darlene Wind and I showed up late after visiting some friends at the Meskwaki Settlement outside Tama. We headed out to the dance floor and realized we were the only dancers, inside of a circle of non-Indian spectators who clicked away on their cameras. We were rare birds about to disappear, and we did, immediately after that dance. Here many of the dancers here appeared to be non-Indian. It doesn’t mean they weren’t Indian but these outposts far from Indian country often attract the hobbyists because they won’t be so readily identified or hassled. Mostly, we watched the Honolulu crowd as they watched the dancers, ate fry bread, visited and walked the arena to mostly gawk at the arts and crafts as they weren’t, for the most part, buying.

Bill Tiger, or Tiger’s from within a few miles of where I’m from in Oklahoma, of the same tribe and clan. He moved out to Hawaii over thirty years ago when he married a Hawaiian woman. I was impressed at how many people walked up to our booth to say hello to Tiger. He’s helped everyone in this community, and then some. Many hadn’t seen him since he’d become legally blind from the diabetes and were surprised when he didn’t immediately recognize them. The disease had also eaten on his legs and he showed me how he could now do dialysis even while sitting at the powwow, rather than forced to spend two days a week sitting in the VA hospital for treatments. So we got a chance to catch up. And stories presented themselves as we watched the crowd.

One man walked the powwow grounds dressed in his Confederate hat. We couldn’t figure out whether he was lost, or making a statement, or lonely for some part of imagined history that he had to dress up for a place in the world. Reminds me that Wilma Mankiller, I believe, told us that at the end of the procession for the opening of the National Museum of the American Indian, walking with thousands of us, native people and organizations from north to south America was a contingent of Confederate re-enactment junkies, all dressed in uniforms and hoop skirts. Their audacity at including themselves in our special moment is stunning, but occurs all the time in Indian country. That’s how this country was founded, over the nations of many who weren’t asked asked permission, or addressed respectfully. We were deemed as non-human, or less cultured (dare I say not “civilized” ?) by the interloper church or state. The appearance of the Confederates prove that perhaps nothing has changed. They still barge into our events, and we are still too polite to ask them to leave. Reminds me of why I I have such a disdain for mission-izing by the church. It's the same lack of respect.

Not far behind him was a man dressed, deliberately it seemed, as a pilgrim.

And later in the afternoon a young woman, probably a student, about 20 or 21, her dyed black hair dreaded and stylish over her beautiful pale complexion, jeans and a few silver piercings came over and asked us where she could find AIM, the American Indian Movement, in Hawaii. The question contained many absurdities, namely that you don’t go to Hawaii to look for AIM. It’s like going to Wall Street to look for Indians. And AIM is past its heyday and isn't historically about the empowerment of women. She appeared smart, fresh, and very female, and looking for AIM was the last thing she needed. They would eat up and spit out this pretty young woman who was looking for a cause to give meaning to her life. Part of my spirit told me to take her aside and ask her what it was she was really looking for, then urge her to research the organization, the history and the present reality, then to weigh it all and see what fits. I didn’t, because the other part of my spirit argued, that she wouldn’t hear me. Maybe that’s based on my last such experience, when I advised a young Vassar student during my residency there-- talked with her intensely for a few hours, trying to dissuade her from heading up to South Dakota to the Pine Ridge Reservation to help the people, until she had a better-defined reason, a plan, an invite and some contacts. She had no experience traveling, didn’t know anyone from there, and hadn’t been asked. And she appeared much less sure, and more innocently naïve than the girl at the Honolulu powwow. When she left my apartment (or should I say haunted house, but that’s another story) that night at Vassar, I realized she hadn’t heard anything I’d said. She was going anyway. She was embarking on an American dream of beautiful, elegantly rough and wise Indian warriors headed toward the sunset of history, to save them. It’s a sexy dream. That’s why I didn’t say anything to the young woman wandering at the Honolulu powwow. And would I have listened either at their age? No. But I wouldn't have wandered brazenly into another group to save them, without being asked, either.

The strange thing is though, that just as this woman asked, a biker walked up to the table, right next to her, in a jean jacked slathered with AIM logos. Now what do you make of that? "Ask and ye shall find. Knock and the door shall be opened."

Tiger then told me of the year at the powwow when a rich white woman showed up at the powwow looking for a husband. She wanted to have a baby. She had a plan alright, and was upfront about her intentions, much to the amusement of everyone. Bill and I laughed at the terrible scenario, of this woman even hitting on one of his relatives in his late teens. It’s so sad you have to laugh to survive. But what happens in the aftermath of such a haphazard scheme? In the wreckage of family and child left to all of us? Maybe I should go back and talk to that girl. This blog is my way of doing so.

**** **** **** **** **** ***** **** **** ****

The hands are held open for either giving or receiving.

**** **** **** **** **** **** **** **** ****

Sitting outside the National Museum of the American Indian after a reception and viewing of the museum, the day before the opening, I run into Carlos Nakai, one of Indian country’s finest musicians. We admire the lily-filled pond, the grounds rich with native plants. It’s idyllic. We both agree that what’s missing are the junked cars, chickens, skinny rez dogs, kids running around, dried meat racks….and so on.

October 1-6, 2004 Honolulu


Opening of the National Museum of the American Indian

The Opening of the National Museum of the American Indian

Events occur on many levels. I was present at one of the earliest planning sessions for the National Museum of the American Indian. Then, it was an idea, a series of ideas. That we were meeting together and breathing was a miracle itself in this land of genocidal intentions and means. We helped birth the vision, or was the vision there already to be fulfilled? I wonder how that works. Could be a little of both, that is, the yearning of a spirit to be born as an architectural being, and the need of peoples to have a place of representation on that terrible, sacred land called the Mall, the body of the Capitol Building.

Last Tuesday morning we were there to cap off that dream with acknowledgment, dancing, singing with hundreds of tribal groups and organizations. We’d been preparing for this. The Mvskoke contingent was made up of several groups, from the Principal Chief and other tribal officials, to the veterans, elderly, students in their crisp newly made outfits, many in wheelchairs, various societies including various members of my ceremonial grounds. There was a plan for a processional order, which appeared to be very loosely adhered to—I stayed with those associated with our ceremonial grounds, next to my cousin who is current head of the California Muscogee Creek Association.

It was a beautiful, blue-sky morning. Exhilarating to be altogether on those historical grounds, exhilarating to be alive in that particular moment together. For me to be there at that moment had everything to do with Monahwee surviving seven shot wounds at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend after near massacre by Andrew Jackson and his troops, by the efforts of his parents before him, his children, his wife and all who followed, and too, my mother’s Cherokee family who were forced to flee their homes for the west. There we were, shimmering with the gleam of blessings.

We all moved slowly in our groups up the Mall together. It was hot and often the procession stopped but the feeling didn’t stop. It grew. Each group sang or chanted. In the front of our group the Christians sang hymns in the Mvskoke language. In the back, we sang and danced the original Mvskoke songs. That’s how it is but it wasn’t always that way. For years since the Christians had pronounced us the children of devils our Mvskoke traditional ways were vilified, even by many of our own people who turned to the Bible ways. Some of that still goes on today by those who believe they are the official voice and way of the divine. Some were there, but many in that group had come to see that we have to embrace each other just as the Sun and Moon who were occupying the same equinox sky that day I will always remember the inspired singing and dancing as we moved together. I still see joy, and the color red (which is the color of renewed blood, of vitality). And I will always remember the conversations I shared with tribal members as we all met up and talked with new and old relatives. We laid aside any enmities for awhile, to walk together. And I finally got to meet Floy Pepper, Jim Pepper’s mother. She sure drives a mean wheelchair.

(The opening occurred on September 22nd, 2004 in Washington, D.C.


Here's the poem that was published in the Poetry Against the War anthology, in honor of the September 21st opening of the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington D.C., and my performance on Thursday with DC Poets Against the War. Will check in along the way. Friday night about eleven. Still packing. It's raining in Honolulu. Sept 17, 2004


Yes that was me you saw shaking with bravery, with a government issued rifle on my back. I’m sorry I could not greet you as you deserved, my relative.

They were not my tears. I have a reservoir inside. They will be cried by my sons, my daughters if I can’t learn how to turn tears to stone.

Yes, that was me standing in the back door of the house in the alley, with fresh corn and bread for the neighbors.

I did not foresee the flood of blood. How they would forget our friendship, would return to kill me and the babies.

Yes, that was me whirling on the dance floor. We made such a racket with all that joy. I loved the whole world in that silly music.

I did not realize the terrible dance in the staccato of bullets.

Yes. I smelled the burning grease of corpses. And like a fool I expected our words might rise up and jam the artillery in the hands of dictators.

We had to keep going. We sang our grief to clean the air of turbulent spirits.

Yes, I did see the terrible black clouds as I cooked dinner. And the messages of the dying spelled there in the ashy sunset. Every one addressed: “mother”.

There was nothing about it in the news. Everything was the same. Unemployment was up. Another queen crowned with flowers. Then there were the sports scores.

Yes, the distance was great between your country and mine. Yet our children played in the path between our houses.

No. We had no quarrel with each other.

c Joy Harjo Honolulu, HI 2003



Tonight I'm struggling with the gulf between the literal and the metaphorical. No need to think there needs to be a bridge as ultimately they're really the same, depends on context and point of view. Reference poetry, music or any of the arts. No, that's not what the trouble is, I'm trying to figure how to make a ladder between lying and the truth. And maybe that's impossible because lies and truth though might both be made out of words, or thoughts or actions also exist on distant sides from each other. Let's just say I'm tired. From a few rough days, from a quick round trip of over 5,000 miles, from too many questions and not enough answers or clear paths to answers. Flying so far so fast is okay for the spirit, but the body lags behind, trying to catch up. The body is made for walking, running, and a little swim now and then. The spirit for flying.

September 16, 2004 Honolulu



Today is the official release date of NATIVE JOY FOR REAL! It is available on Amazon.com, CDBaby, iTunes, Napster, and we're working on other distribution. If you have any ideas for distribution, venues, radio stations please advise. It was through one of the readers of the blog that the performance in DC on 23rd of September is happening. So, thank you thank you, or in the Mvskoke language, mvto, mvto. Just tried to upload the beautiful poster image announcing the DC Poets Against the War event at the Provisions Library. It didn't work. Will try again. Thank you C.L. and Provisions Library and the CD Poets Against the War.

Started the morning in a hotel room in Marina del Rey, at 8AM LA time which is 5AM Honolulu time. I was still in a time zone fog and there was a fog still over the marina obscuring the sun. Got dressed to work out and drove over to Washington St. to the beach for tea, and a look at this side of the Pacific. Still grey out, no surfeit of surfers (I couldn't help that one!)--the wavelets rather tame but more than the last time I stood here on this beach looking out to the west. The first time I stood in this spot floated through and there I was again, in the early eighties, parked in Venice Beach for two weeks in a friend of a friend's apartment. It was the second stop on my month of driving around the country alone, though the first few weeks I had a companion, a poet who was recovering from a terrible breakup. She asked for a ride as far as the coast. Those weeks began every morning with breakfast at a little place on Venice Beach for a few bucks. Then writing for a few hours, then walking. It was the longest break I'd every had from my children. They were with their reluctant fathers for a short vacation. I felt selfish to have this luxurious time just for the writing life, but I soaked it up. Afternoons I'd read or walk, never went far. One night we drove downtown for a reading by Audre Lorde, then over to Silver Lake to a bar, dancing. I didn't want to stop. Then after two weeks drove on up the coast to San Francisco for a few days, let my friend out there and kept going, all the way to Seattle, then to Meridel LeSueur's in Minneapolis, then to New York City, down as far as Jacksonville, then the Creek Nation in Alabama, then over to my father's trailer in Oyster Creek, Texas then back up to New Mexico. And a million stories in between. And I was in there somewhere, burning with a need to know all of it. I didn't die, or maybe I died a thousand deaths between then and now where I try to eke out a note tonight after slogging through a script rewrite in a hotel room all day. Time is a wave, a series of waves. I can see it now.

September 15, 2004 Los Angeles



It's Saturday night in Honolulu. Could be any late summer Saturday night in Honolulu. It's not. It's the anniversary of September 11th and we're on the verge of a terrible national election. The outcome of this election will demonstrate how culpable voters are--and many people won't vote because it doesn't make sense to vote because it appears that votes don't count due to ballot box treachery or because there's a lack of relevant candidates. I've been following the presidential race like everyone else. Or actually, squinting my eyes, heart and soul because I just don't want to see it anymore. It's a technique I developed in childhood when my father would hit the low end after the high when partying with his buddies, when he'd strike out against the membrane of the world that hurt him and hurt those who loved him. I knew his pain, could see it flare around him, strike the aurora of sadness and blow. I'd pretend it wasn't happening, distance myself to some far planet or star until it broke and rippled into nothingness. And then it would be okay again. It's an old habit I've tried to break because what is is what is and you might as well keep absolutely focused so you don't miss anything at all. I'll never forget the scene in Sharon Doubiago's memoir of growing up in Southern California when a semi tractor trailer loses control and heads straight toward the car she's in. Everyone else screams and hides. She keeps her eyes wide open because she wants to see, to know this thing.

Tonight my friend and her 83-year-old mother are finishing our meal at Willow Restaurant. We're next to the water, under a coconut palm and several flowering trees. The mother is beset by ghosts of old friends and times she's had in that place. Everything's changed, but not really. Plumeria sweetness lifts and falls with light trades. We go back to the buffet line for more curry, coconut cake, and ice cream. She informs us she's voted. I don't say anything because I don't want to argue with her about politics. There can be no true communication here. She like many others are voting for an idea of a place they once knew, once dreamed about--many are intellectually developed people, yet they are going to vote for a man who confuses "feces" with "fetus", who's led us into the worst financial, educational, spiritual deficit in this country, who's made enemies of our world allies, and involved us in wars that will benefit his family and friends. And threatens us with more violence if we don't vote for them. They are running a campaign of fear. Reminds me of the time I was sitting in church as a child, realizing that I had never heard about the devil until I was in the so-called house of God, and the devil appeared in every other sentence. Fear tactics.

It really comes down to common sense. Common sense will tell you the truth. Is this someone you can trust? Who will take care of the people, be a steward of all our gifts? Have we forgotten the qualities of true leaders? I always think of Crazy Horse. He was humble. He didn't make false promises. He took care of his people and would look after their needs, take care of the elderly, the kids, make sure everyone had enough to eat, fought and played hard. He cultivated a far-seeing-ness by looking closely, a near-seeing-ness. He didn't talk much and when he did speak every word meant something. Sometimes I think of our spoken or written words like children. We give them breath as they leave us. They have a similar potential as children. Which reminds me, I keep thinking of the children's tale of "The Emperor Who Had No Clothes" and this leadership crisis we're in as a country seems like a clear case of some thieves trying to pull one over on the public. What happened to picking leaders based on leadership ability? Is that even possible in this system?

So tonight in a punch of panic it finally hit me, and I was overwhelmed by the immensity of the insanity at work here. A light rain feeds the flowers and trees as we walk to the car past a beautiful young man smoking a cigarette while he waits and I am smitten by grief. Then grief followed by anger. Maybe this is what my father went through, an Indian man in Oklahoma who'd lost a country to Andrew Jackson, and then the replacement country to oil and oil money people. What parallels. So what do I do now, now that I see it in all it's outrageous detail?

c Joy Harjo September 11-2004 Honolulu


Jim Pepper, and You Don't Know What Love Is

Okay, first the contest: The Creek/Caw jazz sax player was Jim Pepper. Look him up if you haven't. His music's hard to obtain but not impossible. Three sent in the correct answer. I choose the first to respond. Some of you are out there pretty late or very early in the morning. (Need to hear back from you with your address, S.C. so I can send you the CD.)

At the moment I feel like a DJ. I did just play a dinner hour jazz set here in my office/studio, because I didn't get to horn practice until late and the neighbors can hear everything. So I played heartbreak jazz over trax for their entertainment. Mostly they get scales in the middle of the afternoon. Ended it with "You Don't Know What Love Is". How many times has that phrase been shouted, in probably every language in the world? There's the tears, the slamming of the door: (car, house, heart) the running away. Then the return, or the grief and then memory. This is the starting point of probably 75% of the songs on the planet, by human, cricket or other creature or plant.

The morning before last I emerged from the dream world as if I had been gone a long time, for years. It was difficult to surface because a friend I hadn't seen since she was camping in the mountains above Santa Fe with her husband and small son appeared to me. They moved back east to her husband's reservation and later I heard she'd died tragically. The story goes she was found dead in a field or on the road after heading to the store with the collected change from a party to buy the next round. This was the first time I'd seen her since. As she drove up my logical self whispered, "but she's dead", but my spirit self brushed off the thought and greeted her. She was wearing beige slacks and a cream-colored blouse. She had shed the malnourished alcoholic skin I'd last seen her in. She shined. Next to her was the memory of the first husband who is still physically here. I was standing at the stage door, horn in hand, getting ready to go out and perform. She came to give me the go ahead, and to remind me not to turn back as she had, from her dream. She was a gifted actor and the denial of that dream had destroyed her.

I've pondered all this since that morning. I recalled her pain, her struggle, her lack of opportunity or ability to seize her dreams, and her friendship to a young, lost Indian student those many years ago. We get through this world with the help of many. We must thank them, give something back.

One way to honor is to continue humbly, with purpose in your path, bearing your gift like fire through the storms, despite setbacks and losses. Another is to help others realize their gifts.

I also realized that to let go what was given you to do results in hell. We grow heaven and hell in the same manner we grow trees, children or dreams. Each starts with one thought, one song, one word, one kindness or hurtful act. And continues the same way.

So, for you my friend, here's a dedication for the evening show tonight, one of my favorites by Mal Waldron, performed by John Coltrane, "Soul Eyes".

Good night.


The Small Voice and CONTEST

The resistance to writing blogs is this: I usually spend time writing and rewriting before letting anything out into the public. The blog is a journal and maybe journal is related to journey. And my journals are generally private events, places to work out ideas, dreams, stories, poems before they reach the first draft stage. They’re embryonic, even wild, unformed. Some can be caught, some not. So I fret over letting anything go in a blog.

Several themes intertwine this week, a week in which I’ve traveled to Kona on the Big Island for the Queen Lili'uokalani Canoe Race, then spent a few days after on the beach as I’ve tried to figure the next move in all this. The apparent themes are: death, political madness, lying and imperialistic actions done in the name of all of us—our children will pay for these evil stupidities--, and the internal human battles that we all deal with, which are immense in the flare, then appear even petty in the overview of hours and days. But the small is the large after all and it’s the small internal battles that are behind each world war—I grimace to think of the litter of recent failures, but after each battle I come to an understanding I haven’t had before---so maybe they aren’t failures because something’s been gained, something I can hear and speak or sing or play through my horn. And then someone else picks up on it and continues to create with it…

There is a wise one in all of us. The voice of that one is subtle, doesn’t yell or elbow or otherwise call attention to itself. It’s just there, like the knowing silence in those old Creek relatives who know that real power comes with humbleness. But there’s no mistake when I’ve heard that voice. One day the clatter of my mind was too much as my thoughts wheeled around and around about not having this or that, not being this or that, and off onto the track of judgment. You know what I mean. It’s so easy to stand there with your mental hands on your mental hips, smacking your lips with judgment over someone else’s weaknesses and poor choices in life. They’re so easy to see. Meanwhile, your weaknesses are dancing circles around you in cheap polyester, making a racket you can’t hear or see, unless you shut up for awhile. And everyone else might be pointing fingers and laughing up at the raucous pride, the need for attention, or whatever it might be. We often leap to our own uninformed conclusions, usually by leapfrogging over the wise self. And what invariably happens is that whenever I make those judgments or pronouncements I find myself on the other side of them almost immediately. And then I hear my words come back to me, sharply, painfully. Then I know I have gained knowledge.

It’s hot in this studio. It’s generally orderly: there’s musical instruments, stacks of paper, blankets hung on the wall, books, stacks of paper, my computer—tonight everything’s askew, like my mind. The couple across the way are fighting again. He howls. Her voice punches. Back and forth. Each is wrapped in private pain, but it’s a pain they share.

What is it within us that allows us to wake up from that terribly rutted hellish road?

Okay, so here it is, the contest. The first person to send the answer to nativejoy@earthlink.net will receive a free Native Joy CD. Name the Creek saxophone player who has influenced me. (First and last name.)

Also, looks like I’ll be doing a performance sponsored by the DC Poets Against the War organization in DC on September 23rd at the Provisions Library. More info will follow as soon as I have it. Will be performing some of the trax from the new album as long as there’s a good sound system.



I am in the middle of working on a short story “The Howling Contest” that takes place in a bar frequented by Indians, bikers and poets in Albuquerque in the early seventies. When you’re in a story, you’re in it, and all during the day it surfaces and will keep forming there at the edge of consciousness, or is it unconsciousness or super consciousness? It’s based partly on truth, partly fiction, partly myth. I am back at it this morning, though I have two hours to write, pack and get ready to fly to Kona to be part of the support for some friends’ 18-mile canoe race, and the Chinese attorney neighbor with the harsh voice is yelling at her teenage girls, though I don’t think she knows she’s yelling. She always sounds like she’s yelling. So that as I write part of me is answering: yes mom, okay mom, I will mom and then I’m ducking and getting out of the house as fast as I can to school. She’s also showering as she ushers them with her voice through the morning. The bathroom echo chamber amplifies the sound. You can hear everything up here anyway and that thought makes me cringe because if I can hear them, they can hear me, and that’s why I don’t practice music here past eight p.m.. A saxophone moan travels miles here, as does howling.

Today I had a major dent slammed into my self-confidence and did a little howling myself. Quiet kind. I do have pride. And this morning I go out with my shame-faced prayers for my feeling-sorry-for-myself lapse and am amazed again at the beauty of this time just before the sun comes up and everyone else is already out celebrating: the butler birds, doves, Brazilian cardinals, skinks, trees, opening flowers. There are just some things you can do nothing about, like the sun coming back and putting a shine on all of it. Yes, the disappointment is still there. And yes, I’ll still think about it now and then and it will be tender for awhile, but I will also let it go and focus on what I can do and what gifts I have here in my hands to return a thank you for all this. There’s just some things you can do nothing about except acknowledge the injustice and keep moving with grace towards making something of what you are given, like a story, a new song, a morning in which I have a home, am not dodging bombs or being dragged to my death by monsters. I read about it as I walk back up the stairs with the morning paper. I keep all that in mind, in heart. Ultimately, the only thing I have control over is my own dignity, no matter what happens. So, my wounded little dignity is taking a big breath, doing a stomp dance shuffle and will keep making music anyway.

c Joy Harjo September 3, 2004 Honolulu


Dreaming What Can't be Dreamed

Last night the moon appeared to swagger at the end of King Street as we headed into Alan Wong's for a dinner with an old friend. Earlier swam the waters at Ala Moana Beach Park and felt the current full and fat with the moon. And before that learned Greek dances at the Greek festival. Recalled being underage in an Indian bar arguing with a tall native guy from way up North, Chippewa or something who kept insisting I was Greek, not Creek. A woman at a table across the pond loses it. First I hear the bottles breaking and automatically think it's related to some kind of wedding ritual. She runs past the banyan to the other side of the pond with the perfect lotus flowers. The band keeps playing. Each of these events is real, but now as I write them they have become scenes in a dream. Isn't that reality? How reality works? Then we recreate, reshape it according to our recollection. I can translate it all through different filters, like the gel filters we used to attach to the stage lights at our Indian school stage productions. One filter is paranoia, one is fear, one is sadness, one is joy, one is compassion...

So then does energy equal matter?

Tonight I'm lonely for poetry. The moon is hidden under clouds tonight. It's one other night in millions of nights. I still need to drag the trash down the hill.


August 27, 2004 Honolulu

Little knot of blackness
Quivering at the realm of doubt.
You’re there.
I’m here in the perfect little house on the ridge of the island, the tradewinds
Threading the trees, fruit and flowers
Hanging on by doves and mangos
By plumeria and blue water.
And then, no longer here
Compelled to dive
To your heartless heart
Through missionaries in their woolen covers
Pointing fingers
Through lawmakers and their books of feckless laws
And the wall of judges fat with hate
For my language, my face
Down through the hall of hammers, saws and derision
And beyond the parts of the missing and those killed
In unjust wars.
It was beautiful this morning when I left
The harbor calm and the flowers wet with a blessing rain, now
Opening to the sun.
Even the mynahs were trying to sing.
It was like that and I love these winds these flowers
And this water, this little house hugging the ridge.
But still I descend
Past the volcano rim of teeth on the horizon
and the yard of rich black dirt from fire
Past knowing anything beautiful
Into a vaster unknowing
Into this terrible thing
Burning there it might kill.
Me and everything that I love
But, I think, oh terrible rushed thinking
If I can locate the root, the time, the hour
If I can know it like a lover, a brother, a mother
Like a room I’ve lived in forever
A beloved, worn shirt
Then it will not hold me here
At the core
Where the doubt flower has taken root.
Maybe if I trip past the perimeter of the tangle
I will be able to laugh at the critic
Under the stars of hot truth.
I will locate the root
And set us all free.

c Joy Harjo August 27, 2004 Mercury Retrograde



Tuesday morning we landed in Honolulu after six days of a journey and two gigs in New Mexico. Exhausted. Emotional. Happy to be home on this island and sad to leave home in New Mexico. Incongruencies and conflict constitute an ongoing theme here and I tend to run back and forth between. The trick is how to manuever with grace. There will always be tests. Here was the largest challenge given: For the Saturday night Roots and Rhythms Performance, let's keep Harjo awake all night and all day with adrenalin (literally, no sleep at all), set up a late sound check, add two wonderful musicians but literally no rehearsal time for a new set up, start a dramatic thunder-lightning-rain and hail storm on an open amphitheater at show time, the show (with many acts) starts two and a half hours late, that is, 9:30PM instead of 7PM, and when Harjo and her band come on for the allotted fifteen minute slot at 11:30PM have the sound setup go haywire with screaming feedback and her horn mic not work, then see what happens.

That was the challenge. Made it through and landed on my feet.

The next afternoon at Bookworks, with just me and the loops was beautiful. Great staff there, audience including many beloved ones I have known through the years.

And I return carrying stories of blindness, despair, hospitalizations, car wrecks, jobs acquired, jobs lost, heartache and accomplishment. I'm exhausted. Head to the ocean yesterday morning for cleansing. And last night to a concert at the Honolulu Zoo by the amazing ukelele player, Jake Shimabukura. I am struggling with despair there with all the joyful picnickers, though there is lightness all around. This is what comes:


The sun was leaving for the night, as it always has
Every night, every life, every backwards, every forwards
Every despair, and ever joy.
Through the banyan it shimmered there
Over the bandstand, over the dancing ukulele player
Over the people gathered there
To hear what there was to hear from the band
Singing there
And the elephants behind us with their waving ears
And the new babies lifting their heads on their parents’ shoulders
And the buyers and the sellers and picnickers in one breath
To hear what there was to hear when there’s nothing left to be said
All over again, it’s falling and rising all over again.
We gave it what we had,
Then left, with the sun.

c JOY HARJO August 26, 2004 Honolulu


Annoucing Native Roots and Rhythms and Ploughshares

First, anyone who wrote me regarding Washington DC venues please write again. Lost ALL of my emails. Also note that you can reach me via nativejoy@earthlink.net.

Am busy preparing for the Native Roots and Rhythms performance in Santa Fe, August 21st from 7-10 PM at the Paolo Soleri Theatre on Cerrillos Road, behind the Santa Fe Indian School. Mary Redhouse and Will Clipman are joining me for our 15 minute segment of the show.

I guest edited the Winter 2004-2005 issue of Ploughshares, a fine literary publication out of Boston. The publication date is Dec. 15, 2005. Please check it out at the site: www.pshares.org. Featured writers will appear in the next blog. The following is the near-final draft of the introduction.

INTRODUCTION c Joy Harjo Honolulu 8/2004

I used to think a poem could become a flower, a bear, or a house for a ravaged spirit. I used to think I understood what it meant to write a poem, and understood the impetus to write, and even knew a little something of the immensity of the source of poetry. I was never the scholar and approached the study of poetry like a fool in love with the moon. I mean, I am a reader of poetry and know a little something about the various indigenous roots of American poetry. The poetry sung at the ceremonial grounds is poetry, I know even more about European elements of verse because it was/is a “truly civilized poetry” and was all we were taught in public schools. I had to stand quite a distance from the earth, beyond conquest politics, to see the foolishness of this assertion. To assert one form of poetry above all others is to insist on a hierarchy of value that arbitrarily rules that a rose has more value than an orchid because it is a rose.
The first poetry I heard from my mother’s voice, for it is in song that I first found poetry, or it found me, alone at the breaking of dawn under the huge elm sheltering my childhood house, within range of the radio, of my mother’s voice. I used to think that the elm, too was poetry as it expressed the seasonal shifts and rooted us. The elm was a presence and had a commanding voice and spoke in articulate phrasings. I have given myself over to poetry. And poetry like the earth was once decreed flat, then round. I declare it as a spiral in shape and movement. Each strand of poetry curls from classical form and springs unruly forms that often overtake and become classical forms as the tendrils of songs curl into the future.
I used to think a story would house a beginning, middle and end and could be contained within the covers of a book then given a home in the heart. Or that a story in any of its forms could lead me safely away from myself, show me a world so different I would return to gaze at my known universe with a newly shining mind. I believed that myth was alive and was the mothering source of stories, poetry and songs and within this field I would find the provocative answers to the riddle of being a human without wings or gills, or directions to a map for a lost wanderer. I was looking for vision and the powerful and startling and subtle strategies of language, pattern, style, character, and voice would satisfy and even more, inspire. I have given myself over to the making of stories and even as I found them or they located me I was ecstatic, and then bereft. For then there I was again at the same place I started, the beginning of a page or a voice. I garnered hope, but hope is wistful and empty and is like water in our hands.
I confess. At this moment in the time and context of being a writer in America, I don’t know whether I believe or know anything that I once thought I believed or knew about our art of truth telling, of singing, of constructing the next world as a story or series of stories that we will eventually inhabit, as will our children and their children. Maybe we’ve all been through this before, but it’s another version and we’re in it deep. I used to imagine writing as a ladder leading us from the blind world into the knowing world but now to imagine a ladder means to imagine a land or a house on which to secure a ladder. For many of us in these lands now called America imagining this place has been a tricky feat because there is no place that hasn’t or won’t get stolen, polluted or destroyed, and for all of us now planted here, the foundation is shaky thought it is strong with vision, the country was founded on violent theft. But this is what we have, who we are here, together. And we can use the fire still burning there to destroy this place, or build it anew with bricks made of the trash, with fresh, shining inspiration. The elm is still growing there in that yard.
Maybe the ultimate purpose of literature is to humble us to our knees, to that know-nothing place. Maybe we here on this planet we are a story gone awry, with the Great Storyteller frantically trying out different endings. Whatever the outcome, we need new songs, new stories to accompany us wherever we are, wherever we go. That’s the power contained in a book, journal or magazine you can carry in your hands. So, these stories, poems and songs are offered as such, as gifts for challenge, for inspiration, for sustenance.

I promised a contest...still trying to figure it out.


Keep Paddling Keep Paddling

This morning we headed over the Pali with our outrigger canoes strapped to the top of the car, under heavy clouds and a steady soft rain. We decided to wait out the rain when blue appeared possible and stopped to eat breakfast at Cinnamon’s, a great local place for breakfast and lunch before heading out to the beach.

The beach at Lanikai has been called one of the most beautiful in the world. And it is. It’s white sands and literally turquoise waters. We stood out before we unloaded the boats. Heavy winds kicked up quite a chop but we were there and there was no way, short of a hurricane or something else dangerous or stupid that would have kept us from the water. We paddled out, into the wind. Each stroke barely moved us through the water. I kept remembering a story L. told me of a one-man race with relentless winds (winds I imagined were like this) in which most of the participants had be towed in because no matter how hard you paddled you didn’t move. But this wasn’t quite like the story because we were moving into the wind, albeit slowly, like lead crabs. Sometimes as I cut through one of the larger waves my boat purled, other times the bow slapped the water as we pried our way through the chop. It was difficult to find a rhythm but it was there. Even chaos has a vibration that makes chaos recognizable. I was also aware of the spirit in my belly that loved this ocean no matter time or space. This revelation built with each stroke of the paddle. I kept moving.

Strange, it wasn’t until I turned back to catch waves, that suddenly there was no sound of wind. The noisy shredded blasts that had hammered my senses were absent; it was now calm as unruffled blue, as if I had imagined the struggle. We caught a series of small waves, of adroit and quick pushes and flew, then turned back to do it all again. As I once again labored back, my canoe pushed here and there through choppy waters by capricious, muscled winds I was reminded that often when I have faced such resistance, or have been assaulted by attacks of some manner, I’ve allowed my knowledge of my spirit to diminish and I’d ruined hours or days in despair. As I paddled back through the winds I felt my spirit secure at the center of it all, no matter the turning and pushing of the boat, This is the truth of the matter, I realized, and I kept paddling.

c Joy Harjo August 11, 2004


Beyond Thinking

This afternoon in the Diamond Head Theatre deep into the middle of the first act of "Jesus Christ Superstar" (my first time to see it), with a five-year-old directly behind my left ear asking question after question of her mother about each event in the show (disconcerting at first but then I noticed she was asking very astute and pertinent questions worthy of any of us), and the band is directly to my right, jamming away (it was the last show of a held-over run and as the trumpet/wind synth player told me during intermission, they've absolutely enjoyed it), somewhere between a dance number and an interlude between Mary Magdalene and Jesus Christ I am beyond thinking. For that moment the connections become clear, that is, between, around and through the actors acting the parts on the stage, the audience acting our part, each of us breathing and fulfilling the moment together. There was a larger sense of the moment, beyond thinking, in the context of the intimate Diamond Head Theatre, Kahala area of Honolulu, early August, 2004, the middle of the Pacific, through the thick of childhood and old age. How to describe it? An awareness, laid bare in rhythm of music, of the yearning of us humans to break through our small and immense betrayals. There is a Judas in each of us and a Jesus. Perhaps this is the double helix of DNA. There's duality, or there would be no drama, no story. And then there's a Mary Magdalene, a King Herod, a young dancer, a jeering crowd member. We play each part, though here, now, we are assigned the one we are in. For a moment I saw the gleam of meaning, like the blue of a spirit traveling in a lane nearby. And then there I was again, the yearning one: thinking about what I'd be eating for dinner, wondering where the bathroom was, concerned about a young up-and-coming native artist, reliving an old betrayal, and wrestling a ghost, far away from the moment in less than a snap of finger of time.

c Joy Harjo Reporting from the Front (or the Back), late summer 2004


Throwaway Culture/Warrior of These Times

This is a throw away culture…throwaway diapers, throwaway lighters, throwaway cameras, and throwaway people. If you’re over forty, you’re thrown away in the mainstream American imagination.


Warrior of These Times

Let's honor EDUARDO DELACRUZ, a NYPD officer on trial in New York City for refusing to arrest a homeless man.


Forget Fly Away

Okay. Scratch the lyric, Fly Away. Not there yet. Not at all. It works with the music but too many cliches. Yet. Most poems I work on for sometime, though some come nearly all at once. The crafting takes time, a focused ear, and a feel. Like the horn,too.

I'm thinking about a contest for readers of this blog to win a copy of the Native Joy for Real. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, late. No high thoughts. No low thoughts. It's all one thought. Below me are the lights of Honolulu. One of the late Mainland flights to San Francicso or Los Angeles lifts off. Birds are quiet. No gecko chirps. Worked out several tunes on my tenor ukelele. No words. Sometimes have to step back, or step off. The wild zone is beyond thinking.

CD Report:

Will be signing after the Native Roots and Rhythms show in Santa Fe August 21st, and on August 22nd at Bookworks in Albuquerque on Rio Grande Blvd. at 3PM. Hope to see you there. If anyone knows any Washington DC contacts for September please advise.



Fly Away

Another late balmy evening. Spent a few hours working on tunes for the Native Roots and Rhythms Show I'll be playing in Santa Fe on August 21st with the wonderful musicians Mary Redhouse and Will Clipman. (Both play with Carlos Nakai). Inspired by the saxophonist David Choy after the Hawaii Jazz Festival Swing show last Friday night at the Hawaii Theater. Incredible player: has skill, technique, feel and over all brilliance.

So much of playing is about the nuance of silence.

And maybe that's what I'm getting at here tonight as another family of tradewinds returns up here in Alewa Heights. So easy to fill it up with everything: being a record company*, a book of stories due, the daily practice of voice and saxophone, house stuff, family stuff, friends, life, and now these new songs that want to be written and are keeping me up late. Here's the lyrics of a new tune that I'm in the middle of arranging. It's copyrighted. Still in process. It's not poetry. Lyrics in standard song forms are so much different. And some become poetry, some not. Still some editing and rewriting to do. The original light of impulse on this one fueled by a conversation with a family member about familial historic tragedies and likely impending ones. We will all leave this earth. Some sooner than others.

Fly Away
c Joy Harjo

There is no easy way to turn and walk the other way
Though there are doorways,
And afterwards, there�s never words
To say what can�t be said

If I were a red bird I�d sing it
Or a blackbird, I�d wing it.
But I�m standing here in yesterday.
Downing back the fears.

There we are in our childhood suits, waving
Back the troubles.
Who�s to say what�s right, what�s wrong?
We take what we can carry.

If I were a red bird I�d sing it
Or a blackbird, I�d wing it
But I�m standing here in yesterday.
Downing back the fears.

We might be born a thousand times each day
That means a thousand ends are blooming.
Fly away and don�t look back
We�ll keep what�s ours to keep

If I were a red bird I�d sing it
Or a blackbird, I�d wing it.
I�m being tempted by some sweet, sweet winds
Beyond laughter, or tears.

Fly away and don�t look back
In your pretty red jacket
Fly away, in your shiny black
One day I�ll follow

c Joy Harjo, Katcv Publishing (Katcv means big cat in the Mvskoke language)

*Native Joy for Real is for sale on Amazon.com. NOW. Also from SOAR Records. And from P.O.Box 831, Glenpool, OK (see website).