Georgia O’Keeffe, “Sky above Clouds IV” (1965) (Art Institute of Chicago, image via Sharon Mollerus on Flickr)


I’m so wound. With built up key stroke, dog bite and growl.
Wind slides through New Mexican brilliant whitegrey
clouds. Spring. Early morning five-minute drive to school. I drop
my daughter down curbside a line of mothers fathers steering
wheels to-go cups coffee filled. Backpacks pink and blue sneakers
high pony tails dark eyes flash goodbye and love and have
a good day. I’m gaining weight upon the lost body. Barely able
to lift my feet. I can’t answer the simplest why. I have much
to be thankful for. I seek to be forgotten, still. Compounded.

But, that the year would end on a high note. Relationships resolved.
Every friendship even the broken, is a friendship again. Mostly.
What more to ask for, as the dog sleeps and sheds his winter coat.
Just earlier tonight I stood in front of the window and burst out
crying I didn’t care, if passersby watched. Because just this week
I gave a speech about many things, among the many
I spoke about feeling. It’s our work I said and I teetered
at the edge of the stage nearly falling into scraped-face futility.

Dogs. I’ve had some dogs. King was a black lab who left for days
to fight and lord the block. So busted up as he aged he’d lie at the edge
of the porch, roll over from exhaustion tumbling into the bed of cacti.
My mother and I pulled needles from his hanging dog skin one by one.
It took hours no doubt, though I do not remember ‘cept he was black
and a king and old. Along the way somehow he died didn’t he.

I’ve fallen into depression I’m sorry. I thought I was fine then I dropped
into what pulls. For so long my anchor’s been pain, a lodestone
magnetized and electric I came to understand this what
as, feeling. But who cares now it’s between the page and me. Personal,
private. I am two and then twice that, as I call my name four times.
Layli, Layli,
Layli, Layli.

At the door, Layli Pain and Layli Joy. A child-self enters with me.
Layli Think and Layli Do, they soft step to the threshold I imagine.
I want no resolution to this friendship of self, halved into halves.
Pain, you boss and lord this existence slow as white blooms
along the sky crumpling into themselves then loosely breaking
away away I call my name. I wait for my return, strange
strange stepping toward me I see                        no one.

*   *   *

Layli Long Soldier holds a B.F.A. from the Institute of American Indian Arts and an M.F.A. from Bard College. Her poems have appeared in  POETRY Magazine, the New York Times, The American PoetThe American ReaderThe Kenyon Review Online, BOMB, and elsewhere. She is the recipient of an NACF National Artist Fellowship, a Lannan Literary Fellowship, a Whiting Award, and was a finalist for the 2017 National Book Award. Most recently, she received the 2018 PEN/Jean Stein Award and the 2018 National Book Critics Circle Award. She is the author of Chromosomory (Q Avenue Press, 2010) and WHEREAS (Graywolf Press, 2017). She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

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