It’s Poem in Your Pocket Day! Halloween for poetry. Carry a poem in your pocket to give to someone like a valentine or trade with someone like a baseball card. Or just hoard poems in your own pocket. Bonus points for poems that taste like candy.
I remember this day last year with nettle-like clarity. It was a sunny spring day much like this one. I walked to Gates Circle, up the Parkway with its tiny white flowers and yellow-green budding trees, and down Elmwood. On Elmwood I stopped into Talking Leaves and obtained a poem from Tina Zigon (a Poetics student). I thought I recalled getting a different poem from her than the one I am about to reproduce, but upon looking in my drawer of small special things, I found a new poem. Perhaps the poem I received magically changed into this poem, as this poem now seems more appropriate than the one I remember (which was appropriate last year):
Remember the sky that you were born under,
___know each of the star’s stories.
Remember the moon, know who she is. I met her
_____in a bar once in Iowa City.
Remember the sun’s birth at dawn, that is the
__strongest point of time. Remember sundown
___and the giving away to night.
Remember your birth, how your mother struggled
to give you form and breath. You are evidence of
___her life, and her mother’s, and hers.
__Remember your father. He is your life also.
___Remember the earth whose skin you are:
red earth, black earth, yellow earth, white earth
_____brown earth, we are earth.
Remember the plants, trees, animal life who all have their
__tribes, their families, their histories, too. Talk to them,
___listen to them. They are alive poems.
Remember the wind. Remember her voice. She knows the
__origin of this universe. I heard her singing Kiowa war
__dance songs at the corner of Fourth and Central once.
Remember that you are all people and that all people are you.
Remember that you are this universe and that this universe is you.
___Remember that all is in motion, is growing, is you.
_____Remember that language comes from this.
___Remember the dance that language is, that life is.
This seems to be a favorite poem for a lot of people. It’s recorded by multiple readers on YouTube (there’s also this filmic non-reading) and reproduced on many websites, often with pictures. Harjo’s work seems to beg to be illustrated with wide landscapes of the desert (like this).
My first experience with Harjo’s work was with one of her most famous poems, “She Had Some Horses.” I do not remember whether our ninth-grade English teacher assigned this reading or if it was merely via her suggestion that I read it. Like “Remember,” “She Had Some Horses” employs repetition to establish both similarity and difference. The plurality of “She” (femininity) is reinforced by a listing of attributes, but the rhetorical sameness of each line brings these disparate parts back into the fold of the subject. This was one of the first “feminist” poems I read and provided encouragement to my ninth-grade psyche, whose sense of self was both rich and well-established at an early age (read: trouble). “She Had Some Horses”: as text and as a sound recording.