This is what the language teaches, waúnspemakhiye:
Do not be ashamed that you misunderstood possessives.
That you were not a thing to be taken and torn, but a verb:
Winyan, “I am a woman.” That everything in Lakótiyapi is,
can be a verb. Not parts of speech but a series of doings:
I walked away that morning. I said, “this cannot happen again.”
I sat in the sanctuary at the mission school that summer. I thought
“I was raped.”
I looked at the stained-glass windows and saw
the language saves.
In the settlers’ tongue, I did not speak of it, but mumbled each morning
a prayer in Lakótiyapi before the work was begun, the work of how to say
“Inside” and “outside” in relation. Of how to intone to one another,
“Taŋyáŋ ómani ye.” Have a good journey.
How to say both “sweetgrass” and “street.”
The funeral home feared they would not be able to break the frozen earth
to bury your father, that you ’d have to return in the spring.
Wonder of the emergence place in its vibrant verdure, almost singing
with what you have lost: the generations, his voice, the possibility of return.
You mean to learn his grandfather James’s language,
James, born just before chokecherry season, who left the place
of his beginnings to farm hogs in Polk County, who taught your
father how to sweat in a makeshift lodge in the yard.
Where there are no relatives there is poetry, paltry and pitiful
to the last. Poetry is with you in the cave of your beginnings, scatters
you all over when you expected to be whole, expected to live
in a house made not of paper but of hide, on whose tanned side
you would paint the deeds that make you woman.
“Wayáčhi kta he?”
“Wačhípi uŋmáspe šni.”
But you can. Dance, too, is a language you understand:
bellowing bones against the floor, pelvis making its own sacred mountain,
the scarf you tie around your waist a prayer flag.
When the pilgrims leave there’s been no progress, only the flag
of a forsaken nation on the face of the moon, only the steel of the city
you were born into crying for itself as the land claims it, claims you, hokšíčhaŋlkiyapi.