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Caroline Jul 24
How many long years did I spend with you,
Lakota Oyate?
Though Wasicu skinned, wearing the paleness of imperial greed,
The reverberant beating of ceremonial drums
Caused my heart to bleed
Rivers of blood,
Tears that I shed,
Soaking the sagebrush and sorrow-laden plains
Inside the hollows of my bones.

Tiyospaye, you are always.

Pilamaya, always and forever.

Mitakuye Oyasin.

Lakota Oyate, you raised me,
A rootless, tender-hearted girl,
Kicking up the dust on some
Empty reservation road.

Lost, but found
In your kindness.

Tiwahe, when I had none.

I filled my plate at your tables, Wojapi and thickened breads,
The laughter of the wild-hearted children
Ringing through the stars like the songs of rainbow-chested prairie birds.

Little takojas, how you grasped my hands and claimed me.
How clearly I can hear them calling, “auntie, auntie, come play!”

And so, the people of the river, below the plains of Standing Rock,
I love you, thechihila,

My little children will forever walk in kindness and humility
Because of the values you raised in them;
Because you drew them in as if they were your own blood,
Because you sewed vibrant ribbons on their shirts
As if they belonged in their humanness,
In their innocence,
To your great nation.

Lakota Oyate, I can never repay you for the way your heartbeat

Saved me.

Prayed for me.

Pilamaya Wopila,
Always and forever.
Fifteen years on a reservation in South Dakota. I will never forget. The people raised and healed me in so many ways. In so many ways, it is home.

Wasicu - White Man
Oyate - Nation
Tiyospaye - Family/Clan
Pilamaya - Thank you
Tiwahe - Family
Wojapi - Berry soup
Takoja - Grandchild
Thechihila - I love you.
Caroline Aug 13
Something indiscernible and gentle
Rests between us,
Like the caverns behind the rushing of the falls.

It lives in the hidden spaces
Beneath language and gesture
And the deafening chatter of

Deep within the rivers of the spirit and the oceans of the soul.

I can feel it in the quiet places;
In the silent pauses when you are
Only breathing,

My face tucked in your neck and
Our hands entangled.

Come here.
Every time,

Fall into a love so sweet

Your sharp edges will fade away
And I will melt into your skin.

It is like drowning and I don’t want to find the shallows again.

Hold me here in the shadows, far below the harshness of light.
Hold me here within the harbors of your body and the indifference of the night.

Hold me here and never, ever,

Let me
Break the bright surface
Of waters
In a world
Without you.
Always true <3
Caroline Jul 10
I won’t chisel a spirit to make
It resemble some other Formation,
Like the sculptors of the faces On the rocks.
I love the mountains more
When their jagged edges and Sun-kissed outcrops
Create patterns all their own;
Granite spires, volcanically Windblown,
Unabashedly wild,
No artist’s signature
Laying claim to the beautiful Potential of the stone;
Only the forces of the
Determine our growth.
Like Crazy Horse,
I want to be brave,
Paint streaks of lightning on
My face;
Look to the mountains and Scream,
I love you
Just like that,
Inspired by the Black Hills.
Caroline Jul 13
Our souls are little embers glowing in the darkness of the universe,
Beyond and within where the atoms glide,
Pixelating space,
Like a painting by Seurat;
Your limbs are mine
Your edges undefined;
We are only energy bleeding into the entropy of time;
Little fires, our soul’s cinders, waiting
Like August flowers
For the sun to die.
And I will freeze from the outside, in.
My skin will slide into the earth
Preserved through the energy transferred;
In every cold death,

My consciousness, so divided by entropy, will one day rest across the universe like dispersed dust;
My voice reborn in the ocean tides, falling from the sky in a sea bird’s call,
Or resounding through the jagged rocks
On the coast of Rossnowlagh.
And as with me,
So with us all.

I wonder, when you hear the cadence of my voice on the edges of the ocean’s squall,
Will your astral fingers like dancing flames trace the outlines of my face?
Through the entropy of space, will you recall?

Will you recall when we were two bodies, whole?
Caroline Aug 12
“Hope” is the thing with feathers -
That perches in the soul -
And sings the tune without the words -
And never stops - at all -

- Emily Dickinson

Waiting for the angry sky to spread across the mountains,
Shifting its vehemence from the high plains
To the undulation of dark pines
And valleys
That meet at the wild boundary lines
Of the Dakotas.  

The distant sound of thunder shakes the ground
And does not rumble like a gentle summer storm,
But implodes within the atoms of the air
Like somewhere in the night
Exists the frontlines of a war.

It draws ever near.

And it is enough to scare this little bird away;
Yet, she sings into the dying of the day,
And bravely turns to face the
Driving wind,
Wings extended out and in
To the torrent of the rain.

She is accustomed to the pain
Of singing all alone
Abandoned in the darkness of a soul
That has almost given up.

But as each storm approaches, I am beginning to trust
That she is always there.

Her bright wings flutter in the deepest hollows of despair.
Her colors light the air between the clashing of the clouds
And when the lightening flares
I can see her
Suspended there

I reach out to grab her.
Surely, she cannot survive a storm of this magnitude,
Not this time.

But you take my hand in yours and tell me,
“She will be fine,”
And even though the sky is falling
I believe you.
Is there any greater gift than the restoration of hope?
Caroline Aug 13
The vague shadow of an ancient oak pulsing
Like an image through static
Through drifting fog
So thick that only the wind
Can lift it and let slip
The outlines of
Where I began.

My ancestry is incompletely buried.
The sharp rocks of drunken nights
Slice upon the roots
Disfiguring, pummeling, smashing,
Rendering mute the stories their craggy hollows could tell
Dissolving in that same fear
My grandmother must have known so well.

I don’t know how to find her,
To reconstruct a broken form
From all of these pieces,
These fallen leaves that
Drift like secrets,
Like the ones my mother
Whispered to me in the dark
When I was nine and old enough
To hold them, to hold her,
When she fell apart.

Because they took them, you know.
My mother, her sisters, her brothers,
The county clipping the roots like
Plucking flowers,
Like it was nothing at all to scatter
Children in the wind,
Like fallen leaves upon the shallows
Of some lonely pond,
Like broken branches
Overpowered by a system that
Only wanted them

So, you see,
It wasn't just the wind that ***** the tree,
But a system that decided
Whose voice to wipe away and
What to keep.

My ancestry is incompletely buried.
Sometimes, I'm sure I can hear her sobbing,
A broken, fragile song, emerging from the earth
Just where the roots, interlocking, stop
the dirt from completely blocking
The story of a battered woman
Buried for too long.

The vague shadow of an ancient oak pulsing
Like an image through static
Through drifting fog
So thick that only the wind
Can lift it and let slip
The outlines of
Where I began.

What if I run my hands along the bark,
The broken pieces, the empty spaces,
Where her voice might be?

Grandma, speak to me.
Caroline Jul 12
I handle my children as if they might disappear.

Sometimes when I am holding them,
My face pressed to their hair,
My hands around their little fists
Like so many eagles
Cloak their nests
In feathered wings,

I feel their edges start to blur
As if pulled by a strong hand
Through a silver curtain.

“You can’t have them!”
I yell at the space above their heads.
“They’re mine!”

And yet I feel the weight of being gifted
So many treasures that
I don’t deserve,
That I try to earn.

I handle my children as if someone might come back for them.
Speaking to me sternly, they will explain
“These are too precious, too rare,
For you.”
But I would not let them go.

I would come after them.
Charging like a lioness
I. Would. Come. For. Them.
Through every burning flame
And every mangled wreck
And sterile hospital bed,
I. Would. Come. For. Them.

Dragging both legs
And seeping blood
And holding the heart
Inside my chest,
With my own two hands
I. Would. Come. For. Them.

I would die for them.

I handle my children as if they might disappear.  
Clutching their tiny bodies and all their edges,
Holding them in, keeping them whole.
I wrote this a couple of years ago when my babies were very tiny, but it remains true, always <3
Yes, it is true.
Sometimes, I am eight.

I stand by the mantelpiece and watch the clock tick upon the wall.
Each second seems excruciatingly extended.
Is there really a purpose to these endless days that stretch into years
That stretch into meaninglessness?
She rests in bed again.
Depression shifts itself into the corners of her room and her smile
Does not reach her eyes.
Mom is very tired.
My father gently guides me from the room,
But she draws me back to say you know I'll love you
Even when I’m gone,
And then I run outside and throw a vibrant red ball into the sky as
If to stubbornly defy her


I so want her to see that there are bright things yet.

I dig them from the ground with my hands
And find them in the remote groves of pines
That stand in harsh wilds outside the boundary lines of
The sadness drawn across her eyes.

I wanted to shatter them with light;

Yet, now it is I who has to fight the darkness in my veins,
Using all my strength to push it away
From my children,
So they do not have to do the same.
Caroline Jul 18
The darkness filtered in across the Wind River Range
Drifting through the ancient spaces of Arapaho plains,
And I, still a child of sixteen,
Huddled in a sleeping bag,
Staring up at a vast black sky,
Patterned with the scattered dancing
Of a million stars.
And the wind, it felt like freedom
And the mountains they were beating
With some kind of barely audible drum.
But I could feel it in my bones,
Like the faintest whisper;
“This is home.”

And so I let the darkness
Fall all around me.
And later, in the depths of an Arapaho ceremony,
I felt my skin cascade
My ribs break
And suddenly, from my naked heart,
I just knew how to pray.

That opening, it never closed,
So that, even now,
The dust of sacred things
Clings tightly to my soul.
And in the blindness of the crowds
I desperately chase it,
Through the veils of common day
I find new ways to trace it.

That light.

It is there, you know. Can you see it?

When just born, we can.
I see it in my children’s eyes,
The lingering of a love
Stronger than all the love of man,
So devoid of fear, unfaltering, pure,
So beautiful that when I hold them
My hearts breaks apart in tears.

And I don’t want to lose it.

That light.

All my life, I’ve sought the broken, held the strays,
Caressed the wounded spaces,
Tried so hard to mend the pieces,
Trailing blood along the way.
And the blood it bleeds from a place of honesty;
Yet, selfishly, washes away the layers of protection
People create
Exposing them to me
Feeding my soul the light that I so desperately seek.

And now, you.
You, burning with the same light that I’ve always known,
And I, like a child again, facing the Arapaho moon,
I can feel these sacred things move
Between us
Like remembrances of some other home.
Caroline Aug 6
Who has the power to play our souls like strings?
What is this memory that rattles the glass like rain?
Fragile sheets that
Precariously encase my veins.
***** me too hard and I WILL break.
Such a waste,
Blood careening down my face,
Or it poetry?

Or is it just my heart floundering at your feet
Like some kind of suffocating fish?
**** these poignant recollections and all these bits
And pieces that somehow
Seep into the deepest recesses of my spirit.

My mother kissed me every night and said I love you twice,
Right up until
The years she died
Like some masterpiece gradually erased upon a board.

How I wanted to keep a little piece of what she was before!

I clutch onto a buried scrap of guilt
Drenched in the dark waters of

“I could have done more.”

Every time it is my children who lift me off the floor;
Their bright eyes
Burned into my mind
Like lanterns on the shore of a foreign sea.

My ship will never leave them.

They have that power over me.

Like you and I.

Here we are again because
I can’t walk towards that other sky
With the sunlight glinting off the rocks
And the horizon caught  
Between us.

I see those little pieces
Of my heart left behind with every mile,
And like a child
I climb up into your arms and make you carry me,
While the blood red sun is setting.

How is it that your strength can put me back together?

I guess,
In the end,
I gladly give it;
The power to make me feel
Give me the substance that overpowers the numbness.
I'll hold it inside me and go down fighting.
Caroline Aug 4
Breathe in the light, breathe out the darkness
And let it drift away
Like smoke into the night beyond the stars above the hills;
Wisps of pain shuttled to the edges of the universe
Where dark matter waits to
Claim it.

Give it away
As easy as supernovas release the radiance of all our yesterdays.

So beautiful you are that the farthest galaxies of stars
Open their astral arms
To the eventual dispersal of your soul
Back from whence it came.

So, do not be afraid
To disintegrate,
To fall to your knees and break
Into the particles of love that define us.

Our tears run like lunar rivers
To guide us
Towards a common sea
That is the common seat of consciousness between us.

Breathe in the light, breathe out the darkness
And warm your heart a while
Here at the edges of the fire
That burns along the shorelines of the deep.

I can feel your soul is tired.
Rest here, by the flames of kindness that will define us
When we focus only on the light, so
Close your eyes.

I can feel your soul beside me and it is

Caroline Jul 10
I remember my father listening to Brahms in the living room,
Eyes closed,
Fingers tapping notes on his knees,
That ratty recliner a front row seat;
An island in an ocean of music and a soul
Carried by the ethereal harmony of a
Symphony felt in the bones.

Even when he could no longer raise his arms
And his legs like stones
Rested still at the end of the bed;
When the poison of cancer destroyed all the strength he had,
I watched him still find something sweet
In the music.

They played it on some old radio
And his eyes would close as if
Those symphonies of hope
Could sustain his heart beat
Just a little while

I am his daughter, and I know this
Because I also listen for it.

In the gentle whispering of the Cottonwood leaves
Or the light strain of the Meadowlark on a summer evening,

There are also strings;

The faint echo of a violin.

It rolls in like a river from a valley far away and plays the notes of hope.

I can hear the opening sonata quote something like,

Don’t give in

To the darkness.

A symphony plays in the winds that cascade across the jagged rocks of the mountains.

A symphony plays in the sky.

A symphony rolls in on the waves of the northern seas,

Across the reddened canyons;

The notes they bleed like rain upon the
Parched and desiccated world.

And sometimes, it plays in your heart.
You orchestrate the notes with your hands when you run them through my hair,
And suddenly, from somewhere far away,
I can hear the whispered strings of my own violin,


Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all

-Emily Dickinson
Caroline Aug 16
My heart is a smoldering ember
That too easily ignites,
Melting this skin of innocence  
Releasing feral things to flight.

But oh how they are beautiful,
Like solitary wolves, slinking from the hollows of my heart
All glistening and yellow-eyed,
Gliding through the midnight forests
On the inside portion of my soul;
The part that only others like us ever know.

Yes, I can see the untamed wilds that make you whole,
And I release the ravens from my heart each time I walk with you.

And sometimes they are beautiful
And sometimes they are dark
And sometimes they cry as their wings beat a breathless pattern to the stars.

With this pen, I trace the elegance of their arcs across the
Uncharted corners of our skies.
Caroline Aug 10
Sometimes I send my spirit to the hills
And then down to the rippling creek
Now raging from the permeating spring rains.

I have always done this,
Perhaps to let my spirit rest within some other element
That is not myself.

I just exhale her away into the rock, the ridges, the river,
As easy as a breath into the winds of early summer.

And there she lies down, gently,
And becomes these other things;

Things that are not fear, or self-doubt, or a
Racing heart at night wondering if I am,
Perhaps, doing it all wrong.

No, she is now like the fawn that knows only
The scent of fresh grass and the ever-rising prairie sun.

She is like the fluttering of the aspen leaves on the
Highest edges of the cliffs,
Loose and wild,
Careless in the wind, since when they fall, they decompose,
Simply to begin again.

There is a space between my ribs through which she leaves
And the tears on my cheeks then wait to cease as she settles within

The rock, the ridges, the river,

And when I am beat down, hurt, scared,

I look up to the hills and tell myself,

Send your spirit

Written a few months ago, but true, always.
Caroline Jul 18
One day these hills will be all we have left.
The thickened pines and needle laden tracks
That rise to summits formed of smooth and serrated granite;
One day I will raise my eyes to these peaks
And see in them the only
Faces of familiarity I can find.
Life is like that.
Everything changes.
The ones we love the most leave
Empty hollows like abandoned
Caverns above the falls,
And darkness spreads where light’s erased
In the the narrow crevices of time.  

One day I will be an old soul, alone in a wicker chair,
Looking to the reddened sky behind the peaks;
Faces I have loved streaming by
And lifting to the wind
That shakes the leaves all the way to the spires of
The ever-constant hills.
They have watched generations rise and fall,
And how I love you like a fire
Burning in the fragile spaces
Between the roughened cliffs
That encroach upon us all.
Caroline Jul 14
Sometimes I close my eyes,
Just to see the great ocean that rocks inside of me;
The rolling tide filling my chest
Cresting over my heart
Spilling through my eyes
And saturating my upturned palms.
I catch your spirit there,
And sometimes imagined scenes:

You and me,
In the half light of dusk
In the light winds of spring
Alone but for the flutter of wings
That is really my heart,
Beating wildly
Against your chest.
Close enough to feel your breath
Along my neck.
Can you feel my tides rise,
My rhythm quicken?
Always you
Stirring these waves of desire,
Churning my waters
Into fire.

Sometimes I close my eyes
Just to hear the music of the sea birds
Soaring and dipping to the surface,
Which is now like glass
Held motionless by your enveloping warmth
Held still by your unfaltering strength
The waves calmed;
The birdsong of my soul free at last.

This ocean is mine
But you carry its depths in your palms
And when I close my eyes
Only you can release
Its power.
Crash with me like these waves beneath the stars.
Close your eyes now.
I am yours.
Written a few months ago. A testament to love and connection.
Caroline Jul 17
I am a tiger and a fawn.
The she-wolf that screams to the moon at dusk
And the meadowlark that whistles to the sun at dawn.
I am darkness and I am light
Flipping my tangled hair to the cascading stars at night
Lifting my hands in prayer, releasing the morning birds to flight.
And I will protect them,
These birds of freedom.
I will carve their songs
Deeply into my heart
And set aside a space
Where the cruelty of this world
Cannot, ever, tear them apart.
So laugh my little children,
And sing your songs of glory,
You are safe
You are heard
And you are worthy.
Caroline Jul 19
Widespread rain descended
In the corner of my dreams;
A monsoon of drenching relief;
A tide to wash the slate clean.

I am a woman now;
Not a girl.
And all of the wounds I’ve won
Unfurl across my body
And my soul
Like shiny medals of valor
Or one, fragile, papyrus scroll.

And thus garbed, and so adorned,
I will wade through the cooling waters of
This cleansing storm.

Widespread rain descended
Filling my outstretched arms;
Quenching the memory of the battle;
Bringing the strength to end the war.

I am worthy now.
I am enough.
And in my hand, I crush the dust
Of guilt, of shame,
Releasing these bitter grains
To the absolution that comes with  
The drumming of
The rain.
Written September 2018. For anyone who needs to hear it. You are enough.
Caroline Aug 9
The light that filters through the leaves at dusk
Is brighter than before.

Yet, at my back,
The shadows still creep along the
Shorelines of my heart.

Child, look up and out
As if reclined
On a blue hammock
Suspended between two tall oaks
And focus on the sky.

Look not at what sprawls behind,
Mangled and torn.

You are not an effigy of the trauma you have born
But an elegy for the storm.

See how the darkest waters part along the fault lines
Of your heart.
Your goodness floods the spaces in-between the wraith-like faces
You have worn and you are now born,
Illuminated and strong,
Steady as an oak against the northern winds.

Your ghosts will not haunt
Inspired by a Scottish ghost story my father used to tell me. In it, there is a stranded sailor, washed up on a distant shore. He feels safe and warm in the light of the northern sun, until at dusk, he spots a darkened form; a wraith of some sort, flitting and skittering towards him in the waning light. As it approaches, he knows it is his death.
I think we encounter these darkened forms in our lives, shadowing us, born from the trauma we have endured. I have seen those that turn to the light and outshine what haunts them, and I have felt the pull and the strength of the light and the continued presence of the darkness somewhere far behind.

— The End —