Dreams are coming fast these days. It started
with two — “wasabzo o seksi” — deer eyes
shining in the dark. Antlers caked with blood.
In the dark, underneath, curved hips and thighs
announce something else. I can’t even say,
“Ndekwem,” my Sister, but I need to.
You—whose daughters are lost, who men betray,
who I don’t understand—I’ll wait for you
by the tree that bears your name. Dreams of two
eyes, moon-mad bright, means that you’re drawing near—
In the dark, underneath all the abuse
and fear, I wish that I could talk. To do
something useful. Deer that is not a deer
at long last let me be of some damn use.
Violence against Indigenous women is at an epidemic level. According to armingsisters, “It is estimated that 1 in 3 Indigenous women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. However, a study done by Amnesty International found that 90% of all Indigenous women have experienced sexual assault.”
Organizations such as Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women USA have made it their mission to find the staggering numbers who go missing across the United States and Canada each year. I say this because I want you to understand why I am (slowly) learning Neshnabé (Potawatomi language). I live near two sovereign Potawatomi tribes in West Michigan, Match-e-be-nash-she-wish Band (near Gun Lake) and Pokagon Band (near Dowagiac). To understand a problem you first have to be able to understand the language that it is spoken in and I do not think English will be the tool to help fight against domestic violence.
The words that I use in the poem are Potawatomi. “Ndekwem,” means, “my sister,” and, “wasabzo o seksi,” talks about deer eyes (seksi) shining in the dark. I might be a slow student but I am confident that once I understand then I too can, “be of some damn use.”