Eagle Poem by Joy Harjo
MARGINALIA • SKIP TO THE POEM
Let’s call it voluntary amnesia, J. wrote to me. If all memories had to go, which ones would you keep? I said that time I was singing in the car with my father. I said I needed to remember this, a tiny celebration of when life is kind. I am certain I will get almost everything wrong in life, but this I got exactly right.
Here’s how I try to pray these days: I read poems. Here’s how I try to be grateful for what I am blessed with: I pay attention.
It was after midnight. A. called to say good night. We ended up talking until the wee hours. Then he started reading from a book, whispering paragraph after paragraph until I fell asleep. After the pain fades, years later you understand: some people you are meant to love for a quick minute. But that minute changes you entirely.
Here’s how I try to be kind to myself when life is difficult: when someone tells me I am loved, I believe them.
To pray you open your whole self
To sky, to earth, to sun, to moon
To one whole voice that is you.
And know there is more
That you can’t see, can’t hear,
Can’t know except in moments
Steadily growing, and in languages
That aren’t always sound but other
Circles of motion.
Like eagle that Sunday morning
Over Salt River. Circled in blue sky
In wind, swept our hearts clean
With sacred wings.
We see you, see ourselves and know
That we must take the utmost care
And kindness in all things.
Breathe in, knowing we are made of
All this, and breathe, knowing
We are truly blessed because we
Were born, and die soon within a
True circle of motion,
Like eagle rounding out the morning
We pray that it will be done
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This poem appeared in How We Became Human: New and Selected Poems by Joy Harjo, published by W.W. Norton, 2002. Shared here with profound gratitude.
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