Day of Mourning
You saw a land change color — from “the red people”
to red in rivers, to rednecks — you gave thanks.
Tinting fresh water with drawn-out life.
You convalesced from fever, her hand
on your forehead — panting with enervation, you gave thanks.
You saw many others not so lucky. You brought death
like a gift basket, plump and placating. Clearing the land
your ships happened upon with waves
of wildfires of white and guns.
Learning and teaching, they taught us.
Hand in hand.
Now your killing continues over a border
between us and them, cramped brown bodies
desperate in their thirst and seeking legal mercy.
You did not give in, but you give thanks
for agents that keep them away.
And you are safe, in houses that lock from the
inside — heated and full of family, a fat bird on the dinner table.
You saw in the news — you saw kids taken and you gave
nothing. But thanks and more
tools that kill furtively. There is forever a rifle
on your alter, it stands for freedom
in front of your father’s portrait. There is freedom
to kill. But where is the freedom to live? Where,
where, wear down the spirit:
that’s where. Cut out the tongues that chant
unrecognizable prayer: all that are left are unshaped cries.
Call it christening.
Into camps, cages, reservations. Thanksgiving, American holiday.
Genocide was a foundational part of America. Unfortunately, with our current immigration policy, we have not yet seemed to seriously prioritize treating people (asylum seekers) humanely. They are here because it is safer than home. If we believe in the American dream, then it is cruel to deny it to those who need it most.
This holiday season, take the time to learn the history of our country, the version left out of our kindergarten role plays with paper hats. Discover the indigenous tribes of the land you live on — mine was home to the Lenape for thousands of years. Speak out about the encroachment of land for pipelines by governments and corporations. And follow the leadership of indigenous peoples in protecting our precious environment. Many of us still have things to be thankful for, so let’s our use our privilege to defend them.
I recently discovered No’u Revilla, a Native Hawai’ian poet raised in Maui as the daughter of a sugar worker. Her poem, “Smoke Screen,” is about her father and the burden of his work wrought with the history of colonialism; here are final lines:
For my father, the night was best alone.
When only he could see through
the world and forgive it.
For so many, the fourth Thursday is a day of mourning.