With lines unseen the land was broken.
When surveyors came, we knew
what the prophet had said was true,
this land with unseen lines would be taken.
So, you who live there now,
don’t forget to love it, thank it
the place that was once our forest,
our ponds, our mosses,
the swamplands with birds and more lowly creatures.
As for us, we walked into the military strength of hunger
and war for that land we still dream.
As the ferry crossed the distance,
or as the walkers left behind their loved ones,
think how we took with us our cats and kittens,
the puppies we loved. We were innocent of what we faced,
along the trail. We took clothing, dishes,
thinking there would be something to start a new life,
believing justice lived in the world,
and the horses, so many,
one by one stolen, taken by the many thieves
So have compassion for that land at least.
Every step we took was one away from the songs,
old dances, memories, some of us dark and not speaking English,
some of us white, or married to the dark, or children of translators
the half-white, all of us watched by America, all of us
longing for trees for shade, homing, rooting,
even more for food along the hunger way.
You would think those of us born later
would fight for justice, for peace,
for the new land, its trees being taken.
You would think
the struggle would be over
between the two worlds in this place
that is now our knowledge,
our new belonging, our being,
and we’d never again care for the notion of maps
or American wars, or the god of their sky,
thinking of those things we were forced to leave behind,
living country, stolen home,
the world measured inch by inch, mile by mile,
hectares, all measurements, even the trail of our tears.
With all the new fierce light, heat, drought
the missing water, you’d think
in another red century, the old wisdom
might exist if we considered enough
that even before the new beliefs
we were once whole,
but now our bodies and minds remain
the measured geography.
Linda Hogan, “Trail of Tears: Our Removal” from Dark. Sweet. Copyright © 2014 by Linda Hogan. Reprinted by permission of Coffee House Press.
Source: Dark. Sweet. (Coffee House Press, 2014)
Source: Poetry Foundation