Bless This Land
Bless this land from the top of its head to the bottom of its feet
From the arctic old white head to the brown feet of tropical rain
Bless the eyes of this land, for they witness cruelty and kindness in
From sunrise light upright to falling down on your knees night
Bless the ears of this land, for they hear cries of heartbreak
and shouts of celebration in this land
Once we heard no gunshot on these lands; the trees and stones can be heard singing
Bless the mouth, lips and speech of this land, for the land is a
speaker, a singer, a keeper of all that happens here, on this land
Luminous forests, oceans, and rock cliff sold for the trash glut
of gold, uranium, or oil bust rush yet there are new stories to be
made, little ones coming up over the horizon
Bless the arms and hands of this land, for they remake and restore
beauty in this land
We were held in the circle around these lands by song, and
reminded by the knowers that not one is over the other, no
human above the bird, no bird above the insect, no wind above the grass
Bless the heart of this land on its knees planting food beneath the
eternal circle of breathing, swimming and walking this land
The heart is a poetry maker. There is one heart, said the poetry
maker, one body and all poems make one poem and we do not
use words to make war on this land
Bless the gut labyrinth of this land, for it is
the center of unknowing in this land
Bless the femaleness and maleness of this land, for each holds the
fluent power of becoming in this land
When it was decided to be in this manner here in this place, this
land, all the birds made a birdly racket from indigo sky holds
Bless the two legs and two feet of this land, for the sacred always
walks beside the profane in this land
These words walk the backbone of this land, massaging the tissue
around the cord of life, which is the tree of life, upon which this
Bless the destruction of this land, for new shoots will rise up from
fire, floods, earthquakes and fierce winds to make new this land
We are land on turtle’s back—when the weight of greed overturns
us, who will recall the upright song of this land
Bless the creation of new land, for out of chaos we will be
compelled to remember to bless this land
The smallest one remembered, the most humble one, the one
whose voice you’d have to lean in a thousand years to hear—we
will begin there
Bless us, these lands, said the rememberer. These lands aren’t our
lands. These lands aren’t your lands. We are this land.
And the blessing began a graceful moving through the grasses
of time, from the beginning, to the circling around place of time,
always moving, always
Traditional Mvskoke Song
It is said that two beloved women sang this song as their band came over on the Trail of Tears. One woman walked near the front of the people, and the other walked near the back with the small children. When anyone faltered, they would sing this song to hold them up.
Chenaorakvtes Momis komet
Awatchken ohapeyakares hvlwen
Do not get tired.
Don’t be discouraged. Be determined.
Come. Together let’s go toward the highest place.
Translated by Rosemary McCombs Maxey
Editorial note: From An American Sunrise (W.W. Norton, 2019), copyright © 2019 by Joy Harjo. Reprinted by permission of the author.
Editorial note: Listen to Curtis Scott performing “Cehotosakvtes” for Sterlin Harjo’s This May Be the Last Time documentary (2014).