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Feathers and Bones

For Raelle Collar

You can mock me for carrying these feathers and bones

But the work in them has served me

And my kin for generations–

I keep your bodies whole 

Even while you disrespect my station.


I lost my mother to folks 

Who thought they were her betters, 

So don’t just wallow in your own blood

When I knit you back together. 

Appreciate the second chance I give you. 


I still have Cession dirt under my nails 

and river water in my blood. 

I keep the land with me,

Tree and totem, branch and bud.

Bind me up in uniform,

Don’t hold back the starch.

You can make me shine my boots but

See if you can make me march.

I keep my feathers and bones

Good and close to my heart.


We all know loss.

That’s the lot of a witch. 

Pain is not more special

When it belongs to the rich

And grief and tears still taste like salt

Even if they make the river run. 

We don’t choose our legacies but

Each of us must shoulder one.


Don’t talk to me about the burdens of your bloodline,

When I stand like a lost toy soldier

At the very end of mine.

My legacy is scarred-up knuckles,

and the call of birds that have flown.

I sing songs around fires and 

Shiver under rough wool blankets

When the nights get cold

And I’m alone.


So keep your family legends stitched into tapestries,

Keep your sash and gallantry

And I, the child of Chippewa,

daughter of field and stone,

will keep my disrespected name,

And keep my feathers and bones.

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