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Decolonize These Poems // Brave Crow

"The New Colossus Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame, With conquering limbs astride from land to land; Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame. "Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

--Emma Lazarus, 1883

Flirting with Liberty:

I saw the torch you carry and

blushing came to mind

i only see sunrises before i go to sleep

i only sleep soundly on your skin

the older i get the more i sin

bleeding reminds me of how

little i will create

how barren i choose to be

how closely i guard myself

still vulgar

still a little mean

everyone knows the meaning

knows the omens of serpents

of being cast out of gardens

enter the tired, the poor

the huddled masses


behind golden doors

guarded by black snakes

punish the tempted not the tempter and leave pests in your hedgerow

exiled by entrapment

conspired with war gods

attempt to reload



seven arrows

medicine wheels

remiss to forgot about the rotation

the moving of stars beneath light pollution

beneath the smog of many many megabytes

lonely nights, when we remember

that calendars change too

for one man in the sky

we abuse an earth some call mother

burning her blood to fly rockets

named after abandoned gods

to be near another absent father

among the stars

to colonize every other garden

naming them eden

for the sake of mankind

and profit

I do not exist in anybody's pocket

or for any woman, idol or god

gifted with any intention from overseas

claiming to bring me liberty

I was already free

the wrong traditions

in the hall of the mountain king

nobody remembered spring or how

to cut cedar and burn sage

bear root stinging in the nostrils

hand drums like heartbeats

pump like puppet strings

carry water and chop wood

warble, sing unlike yourself

live in dreams like the tall man

silenced by songs from shadows

taken out of this space

find a better place to expire

kick up dust past

prickly pears in the bull field

run sideways up butte tops

to stand against the wind

with strays, ready for take off, say

i think we used to be able to fly

tall grass and chokecherries

i didn’t know you were family

raised on the old river, south

adopted and forgotten

every other decade we reappear

crows remember individual faces

you tell me i’m sneaky

like a little lakota boy

hoksila running clouds

into dirt that never washes out

falling easily into the wrong traditions

snake holes and prairie dog homes

if you’d get over your gender

i would show you i earned brave

i’d dance beside you in the sun

wrapped in red felt protection

twisted in eagle bone whistles

tethered to an empty skull

whiter than light


walk this way

night-side of sweat lodge

sideways of long gone

knick-knacks in the dusty corners

forgive me, i’m forgetting

a childhood denied

and games unending

hand drums massage heart-stings

limber and dreamily

we wait for doors to open

and minds to clear

steamed in unity

self-determined to grow

sun-wise and weedy

let go of greed and float freely

i want you to need me

like water

sweat paints rivers down our sides

eyes burn keyholes into smoke

and i can breathe you between stars

i can feel you sliding near me

singing old songs from the throat

through the lungs of the earth

War and Pieces:

ending in pretends

chopping down the tree of nobody was ever so hateful

falling into a hole and digging deeper

self-destructed and it’s everything to wrestle free

the sickness of vengeful minds

the drawing of boundaries

your friends line up like soldiers

to defend a home that isn’t yours

people can’t own land

any more than they can own people

we only make them better or worse

by cultivation or pollution

hate is a word born virus

climbing from ears to vein

brain-bred and unfed

fear clouds judgment


the cost of war always uncounted

in the crossfire of weapons created

from the most ravaged minds of science

earth elements to destroy earth

radioactive and leaching

if the price is right and removed

if you take yourself away from feeling

you can commit yourself to cut trees freely

and stop breathing clean air

or drinking wild water

we are souls always marching

ourselves to death

digging deeper lies and trenches

the cost of love always uncounted

in the crossfire of weapons made of words

from the most ravaged hearts of loneliness

people to destroy people

cold and greedy

let the wind carry us like leaves

into the arms of lovers

who do not seek to conquer

love is trust not thrust

willing us to peace or pieces

White Lies:

Pass time to fake it

ignore the beat in your veins

run it over. ruin it

foot tapping anxiety

envious of things that come easy

barn burnings, no raising

the sun always setting

I stepped out of time

I smelled winter in your hair

all minor chords dissipate

a sigh of relief that things die out

and regrow

I know that nothing's fair

I keep dreaming of the past

but plans reorganize

some things never take root

and some things bloom

I can't understand people without the context

of nature

you were a fox, a wolf, a lamb or a snake

it was the dead of winter

it was the heat of summer

we were under orion's belt

there was lavender in the fields

scent is the most powerful sense

smudged in sage and bathed in ancestors

comforted by tales of tricksters

who fool themselves

like the little lies we all tell ourselves

the lies that eat at us

the poisons of convenience we ingest

the consequence of conquest


Brave Crow is a two-spirit Lakota poet, born and raised in Iowa and enrolled on Standing Rock. They graduated from Coe College with a degrees in Political Science and Creative Writing in 2010. Currently they reside in Minneapolis where they spend all their time biking, writing, eating tacos and hanging out with their coonhound, Willie Nelson. Mni Wiconi.

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