Two Poems from Kimberly Becker

Kimberly Becker’s poems are as breathtaking as they are thought provoking. It was an honor to publish three of her poems in the most recent North Dakota Quarterly, and it is exciting for me, as editor, to share two of these poems on the web today.

Rumor has it that we have another, unpublished poem in the queue and I can’t wait to find a place for it in a future volume of the Quarterly.

NDQ relies on our outstanding contributors, editors, and subscribers to thrive. Please consider submitting to NDQsubscribing, or downloading our previous volume. For more from NDQ 86.1//2, click here.

In Your Mind You Go to Water

There are still people who live on the land and do not objectify the Earth. The pain of the earth is their pain. —Eduardo Duran

You were born with death within you

Passed on in blood,
trauma from prior generations, including the land
You try explaining this to the doctor:
the difference between pathology and blood memory

He takes furtive notes,
threatens dire consequences for noncompliance
His kind have been trained to try to train our brains
to eschew extremes of joy and pain,

have tried to stable unbroken horses of our dreams
while from the storehouse of memory
comes knowledge of sacrifice, Selu and Tsali,
and even now those willing to risk life

by raising one if manyed voice in defense of sacred land
But the white doctor writes on his white pad
prescriptions for Lethean lethargy
knowing docile people forget blood heritage,

docile people won’t rise up
but rather acquiesce to colonizing “experts”
In the office of the oppressor
there is no room for voices and visions of elders

Rain dances outside window frame
In your mind you go to water, go to prayer
in solidarity with other suffering survivors
like your brave friend who said she’d take on the pain

of the People if only she could protect them
Goodbye, physician, who does harm first and last
We’ll swallow no more pills, no more lies
Only pain prompts witness; anesthetization, apathy

You were born with strength within you

Missio Mei

I went all the way to Arizona
to try to forget you

That was my mission

But you are in every arroyo
We were always either flow or wash

Javelina scavenge the yard of my host
while rattlesnake guards front door

The Catalinas change
expressions every time I see them

My host remains expressionless

He insists we visit the Mission
White bones stark against blue sky

All water is holy,
but old habits die hard,

so I cross myself
with water from the font

of a religion that forced baptism
onto heathens,

forced innocence
from children

I see water turned to blood

Wooden painted saints
look on with sad indulgence

I could have lit a candle for a price
Instead I offer prayers in Cherokee

At the gift shop,
seeking some small kinship,

I buy an O’odham basket
woven from beargrass and yucca

Stepping back into the day
the sun tries to warm the chill between us

We do not walk up the hill,
even though that is what you want to do

I need no other vantage
I have seen enough

Hawk calls alarm as it crosses blue

When you smile your eyes stay flat
I remain expressionless

This is what happens
when you give away your power

Now my mission is to call it back


Kimberly L. Becker is author of Words Facing East; The Dividings (WordTech Editions), and Flight (forthcoming, MadHat Press). Grants and residencies include The Regional Artist Project of Northwest NC and Wildacres Residency Program. She has served as mentor for PEN America’s Prison Writing and AWP’s Writer to Writer programs.

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