The Spiral Road

U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo

Here is another poem by Joy Harjo, a member of the Muscogee Nation (Este Mvskokvlke), belonging to Oce Vpofv (Hickory Ground). Considering all that has happened to her people, she is curiously optimistic “for earth’s grandsons.” And that is the title of her poem.

For Earth’s Grandsons

Stand tall, no matter your height, how dark your skin
Your spirit is all colors within
You are made of the finest woven light
From the iridescent love that formed your mothers, fathers
Your grandparents all the way back on the spiral road—
There is no end to this love
It has formed your bodies
Feeds your bright spirits
And no matter what happens in these times of breaking—
No matter dictators, the heartless, and liars
No matter—you are born of those
Who kept ceremonial embers burning in their hands
All through the miles of relentless exile
Those who sang the path through massacre
All the way to sunrise
You will make it through—

Pictograph at Chaco Canyon Showing the Spiral Road

I liked the way the poem ends with a dash: All this is still happening. I posted another poem by Joy Harjo on October 20 here. Both poems are taken from her recent book An American Sunrise (New York: W.W. Norton, 2019).

Seven Questions

Poet Laureate of the United States Joy Harjo

I present for your enjoyment—and serious consideration—a poem about politics by Joy Harjo, the Poet Laureate of the U.S., who is also a Muscogee Creek Indian whose people have suffered grievously from lying, weaselly politicians of all stripes through their history as the first real Americans.

The poem is from her collection entitled An American Sunrise.

For Those Who Would Govern

First question: Can you first govern yourself?

Second question: What is the state of your own household?

Third question: Do you have a proven record of community service and compassionate acts?

Fourth question: Do you know the history and laws of your principalities?

Fifth question: Do you follow sound principles? Look for fresh vision to lift all the inhabitants of the land, including animals, plants, elements, all who share this earth?

Sixth question: Are you owned by lawyers, bankers, insurance agents, lobbyists, or other politicians, anyone else who would unfairly profit by your decisions?

Seventh question: Do you have authority by the original keepers of the lands, those who obey natural law and are in the service of the lands on which you stand?


I found interesting Joy’s use of the word principalities in the fourth question. She herself is a member of a sovereign nation that is affiliated with the U.S.

In the sixth question, I would have included real estate developers, who are in my book archvillains.

Looking at our current president, he comes off in honest answers to these questions as a suppurating vessel of gangrenous pus.