Grief After Grief After Grief After Grief

Billy-Ray Belcourt

copyright ©2018

1. my body is a stray bullet. i was made from crossfire. love was her last resort. his mouth, a revolver. I come from four hundred no man’s lands. 

2. “smell my armpit again/ i miss it when you do that.”

3. his moaning is an honour song i want to world to. 

4. one of the conditions of native life today is survivor’s guilt. 

5. it is july 2016 and the creator opens up the sky to attend a #blacklivesmatter protest. there, she bumps into weesageechak and warns him that if policemen don’t stop killing black men she will flood america and it will become a lost country only grieving mothers will know how to find. this, she says, is how the world will end and be rebuilt this time. 

6. haunting is a gender. gender is another word for horror story. 

7. “i can hear him screaming for me, and i can hear him saying, ‘stop, honey help me.’” 

8. i am trying to figure out how to be in the world without wanting it. this, perhaps, is what it means to be native. 


2: from Lilting (2014, dir. Hong Khaou).
 see :h ttp//

A Wake

Liz Howard

copyright ©2016

Your eyes open the night’s slow static at a loss
to explain this place you’ve returned to from above;
cedar along a broken shore, twisting in a wake of fog.

I’ve lived in rooms with others, of no place and no mind
trying to bind a self inside the contagion of words while
your eyes open the night’s slow static. At a loss

to understand all that I cannot say, as if you came
upon the infinite simply by thinking and it was
a shore of broken cedar twisting in a wake of fog.

If I moan from an animal throat it is in hope you
will return to me what I lost learning to speak.
Your eyes open the night’s slow static at a loss

to ever know the true terminus of doubt, the limits of skin.
As long as you hold me I am doubled from without and within:
a wake of fog unbroken, a shore of twisted cedar.

I will press myself into potential, into your breath,
and maybe what was lost will return in sleep once I see
your eyes open into the night’s slow static, at a loss.
Broken on a shore of cedar. We twist in a wake of fog. 

Red Wall

by Tracy K. Smith and Changtai Bi, translated from the Chinese written by Yi Lei

copyright ©2021

Hot. Having burned me but also
Warmed me. I regard it from a distance.
The flowers choking it, bleeding onto it,
Red legacy binding our generations.
From below, we thousands cast upon it a
beatific, benighted, complacent, complicit,
decorous, disconsolate, distracted, expectant,
execrative, filthy, grievous, guileless,
hallowed, hotheaded, hungry, incredulous,
indifferent, inscrutable, insubordinate, joyful,
loath, mild, peace-loving, profane, proud,
rageful, rancorous, rapt, skeptical, terrified,
tranquil, unperturbed, unrepentant,
warring eye.

From Underworld Lit

Srikanth Reddy

copyright ©2021

In the inky, dismal, and unprofitable research of a recent leave of absence from my life, I happened upon a historical prism of Assurbanipal that I found to be somewhat disquieting. Of an enemy whose remains he had abused in a manner that does not bear repeating here, this most scholarly of Mesopotamian kings professes: 

I made him more dead than he was before. 

(Prism A Beiträge zum Inschriftenwerk Assurbanipals ed. Borger [Harrassowitz 1996] 241)

Prisms of this sort were often buried in the foundations of government, to be read by gods but not men. Somewhere in the shifting labyrinth of movables stacks I could hear a low dial tone humming without end. In Assurbanipal’s library there is a poem, written on clay, that corrects various commonly held errors regarding the venerable realm of the dead. Contrary to the accounts of Mu Lian, Madame Blavatsky, and Kwasi Benefo, et al., it is not customarily permitted to visit the underworld. No, the underworld visits you. 

To Antigone, A Dispatch

Valzhyna Mort

copyright ©2021

          allegro for shooing off the police
          adagio for washing the body
          scherzo for soft laughter and tears
          rondo for covering the body with good earth  

Antigone, dead siblings
are set.
As for the living —
pick me for a sister.

I, too, love a proper funeral.
Drag, Dig and Sisters’ Pop-Up Burial.

I make the rounds of graves
keeping up
my family’s
top-notch properties.

On a torture instrument
called an accordion
I stretch my bones
into fingers of a witch.

My guts have been emptied
like bellows
for the best sound.

Once we settle your brother,
I’ll show your forests
of the unburied dead.

We’ll clean the way only two sisters
can clean a house:

no bones scattered like dirty socks,
no ashes at the bottom of kneecaps.

Why bicker with husbands about dishes
when we’ve got
mountains of skulls to shine?

Labor and retribution we’ll share, not girlie secrets.

Brought up by dolls and monuments,
I have the bearings
of a horse and bitch,
I’m cement in tears.

You can spot my graves from afar,
marble like newborn skin.

Here, history comes to an end
like a movie
with rolling credits of headstones,
with nameless credits of mass graves.

Every ditch, every hill is suspect.

Pick me for a sister, Antigone.
In this suspicious land
I have a bright shovel of a face.


Yusuf Saadi

copyright ©2021

We were busy worshipping
words. Shipping worlds

through string. We held eardrums
to heartbeats to confirm

we were still alive. Someone unchained
the sun from its orbit. We watched it drift

like a curious child beyond the Oort cloud. Dimming
until it was another star in the night’s freckles

and even the day lost its name. We looked
at our hands with unfamiliarity. Trying to understand

the opaqueness of texture. Our moulting bones
discarded. Our new elbows reptilian.

The latest language stripped of meter,
rhyme, beauty. We were warned: there are no straight lines in nature.

Women sang new myths. Men planted
numbers in the soil to see if the fruits

could solve our problems. We invented
new gods and crooned when we remembered

how to brush each other’s hair. Music played
in a distant never. Insects danced

in a different hemisphere of our brain
or of the earth. We often tried to look up,

but we could only see our feet,
alien and hairless.

From The Dyzgraphxst

Canisia Lubrin

copyright ©2021

Cansia Lubrin

Here—beginning the unbeginning
owning nothing but that wounding
sense of waking to speak as I would

after the floods, then, after women unlike
Eve giving kind to the so-and-so, trying
to tell them it is time to be unnavigable,

after calling them back to what
the tongue cuts speaking the thing of
them rolled into stone

speaking I after all, after all theories
of abandonment priced and displayed,
the word was a moonlit knife

with those arrivants
lifting their hems to dance, toeless
with the footless child they invent


Joseph Dandurand

copyright ©2021

If we talked about the past
we would say how strong our people
were and how they had survived
the constant rains and the great floods
and how they lived in the ground
and how they, like us, took the fish
throughout the year and how it fed
their families. And if we talk about
how they would war against other
river and island tribes who would
come upriver to try to take our people
back with them, we would say
we had great warriors who would wait
for the canoes to come to shore
where we would club them to death.

But today we do not use violence
to survive and we have become quiet
and accepting of our neighbors though
in the beginning we were almost wiped out
as sickness came with the people on ships
who wanted to trade and cheat us of our fish.
That sickness nearly wiped out all river people
but today we are still here, and we survive.

Our children have grown up with loss
and alcohol and drugs and they too fight
for their lives in a world that does not
seem to care about them but we try
to teach them the lessons from a long time
before there was anything written down.
In our ceremonies we repeat those words
and our children will also repeat those words
and so we the river people are still here.
We are all the silent warriors and we say
enough is enough and our young they pick up
the drum and they sing new songs
and they stand and shout to the world
that we are still here and will never leave
this simple island on the great river where
we still take the fish and yes, we still live
where we have been for thousands of years
and we are the ancestors of our future as
a child picks up a drum and begins to sing
a new song given to him from long ago.

Language (from Obit)

Victoria Chang

copyright ©2021

Victoria Chang

Language—died, brilliant and beautiful
on August 1, 2009 at 2:46 p.m. Lover
of raising his hand, language lived
a full life of questioning. His favorite
was twisting what others said. His
favorite was to write the world in black
and white and then watch people try
read the words in color. Letters
used to skim my father’s brain before
they let go. Now his words are blind.
Are pleated. Are the dispatcher, the
dispatches, and the receiver. When
my mother was dying, I made everyone
stand around the bed for what would
be the last group photo. Some of us
smiled. Because dying lasts
until it stops. Someone said,
Take a few. Someone said, Say
cheese. Someone said, Thank you.
fails us. In the way that
breaking an arm means an arm’s bone
can break but the arm itself
can’t break
unless sawed or cut. My mother
speak but her eyes were the
only ones that were wide open.