From “Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings”

Joy Harjo

copyright ©2015


Recognize whose lands these are on which we stand.
Ask the deer, turtle, and the crane.
Make sure the spirits of these lands are respected and treated with goodwill.
The land is a being who remembers everything.
You will have to answer to your children, and their children, and theirs—
The red shimmer of remembering will compel you up the night to walk the perimeter of truth for understanding.
As I brushed my hair over the hotel sink to get ready I heard:
By listening we will understand who we are in this holy realm of words.
Do not parade, pleased with yourself.
You must speak in the language of justice.

Notes on the Poem

Our Poem of the Week is an excerpt from Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings (W.W. Norton & Company) by Joy Harjo, shortlisted for the 2016 Griffin Poetry Prize. Of the collection, the judges said: “Joy Harjo has been a crucial figure in American letters for decades, and her latest collection, Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings, presents her at the height of her powers. Intermingling Mvskoke storytelling, rock-and-roll lyrics, cityscapes and personal address, Harjo’s poems are at once sweeping in their concerns and intimate in their tone and approach. Harjo’s is a poetics that is not afraid to speak directly when the moment warrants, nor to refer to traditions – literary traditions, folk traditions, musical traditions – with effortless erudition. Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings is a book of transitions and transformations, inhabiting liminal spaces like hotel rooms and deteriorating natural landscapes. The poems urge engagement, but they also encourage a wider perspective, because for Harjo even ‘the edge between life and death is thinner than a dried animal bladder.’ In the midst of profound change both personal and global, these poems offer guidance and empathy, ceremony and admonishment, wisdom, comfort and song.”

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