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Date(s) - 02/01/2019 - 02/07/2019
All Day

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And finally, a poem of the journey back . . .

Once the World Was Perfect

         by Joy Harjo

Once the world was perfect, and we were happy in that world.

Then we took it for granted.

Discontent began a small rumble in the earthly mind.

Then Doubt pushed through with its spiked head.

And once Doubt ruptured the web,

All manner of demon thoughts

Jumped through—

We destroyed the world we had been given

For inspiration, for life—

Each stone of jealousy, each stone

Of fear, greed, envy, and hatred, put out the light.

No one was without a stone in his or her hand.

There we were,

Right back where we had started.

We were bumping into each other

In the dark.

And now we had no place to live, since we didn’t know

How to live with each other.

Then one of the stumbling ones took pity on another

And shared a blanket.

A spark of kindness made a light.

The light made an opening in the darkness.

Everyone worked together to make a ladder.

A Wind Clan person climbed out first into the next world,

And then the other clans, the children of those clans, their children,

And their children, all the way through time—

To now, into this morning light to you.

Joy Harjo was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and is a member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. She earned her BA from the University of New Mexico and MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Harjo draws on First Nation storytelling and histories, as well as feminist and social justice poetic traditions, and frequently incorporates indigenous myths, symbols, and values into her writing. Her poetry inhabits landscapes—the Southwest, Southeast, but also Alaska and Hawaii—and centers around the need for remembrance and transcendence. She once commented, “I feel strongly that I have a responsibility to all the sources that I am: to all past and future ancestors, to my home country, to all places that I touch down on and that are myself, to all voices, all women, all of my tribe, all people, all earth, and beyond that to all beginnings and endings. In a strange kind of sense [writing] frees me to believe in myself, to be able to speak, to have voice, because I have to; it is my survival.” Her work is often autobiographical, informed by the natural world, and above all preoccupied with survival and the limitations of language.