Six poems by Kimberly L. Becker

Kimberly L. Becker is author of the poetry collections Words Facing East; The Dividings (WordTech), and Flight (forthcoming, MadHat Press). Her poems appear widely in journals and anthologies, including IDK Magazine, Panoply, and Tending the Fire: Native Voices and Portraits. She has held grants from MD, NC, and NJ and residencies at Hambidge, Weymouth, and Wildacres. Kimberly has read at venues such as The National Museum of the American Indian, Washington, DC and Wordfest and served as mentor for PEN America’s Prison Writing and AWP’s Writer to Writer programs.

To introduce these poems, Kimberley sent to Siwar Mayu this statement about her art, a powerful invitation for the younger generations:

As a mixed race poet identifying Cherokee, I neither presume to speak for any sovereign nation nor identify with the dominant culture. I am undocumented and describe this experience in an essay for the upcoming anthology Unpapered co-edited by Diane Glancy and Linda Rodriguez.

My work is influenced by my attempts to honor my heritage through the study of language, culture, and history. I look to my literary elders and betters, such as the brilliant Allison Hedge Coke, who taught me to “hold the door open” for others and so I seek to give back where I can.

If, as Tillie Olsen wrote, “every woman who writes is a survivor” and if, as Audre Lorde wrote, “so we speak, knowing we were never meant to survive,” then every writer of Native descent, documented or undocumented, is not only a survivor, but also a witness against the institutionalized racism still pervasive in this country. The Holocaust happened here, as well; Andrew Jackson’s visage is on our currency and his portrait hangs in the Oval Office of our current corrupt president.

Thankfully we have Joy Harjo as Poet Laureate, the first Native American poet in that role, an important cultural corrective. Read the work of her and so many Native writers who are of the land and speak wisdom from ancestors who were here first. Raise up young writers. Hold the door open. Make your writing an offering. Pray. Praise what you can. Call out injustice when you see it. Call on the strength of generations of people who were never meant to survive, but have.

“Language Classes,” “Morning Song,” “In the Purple and Blue of It,” “The Cherokee in Me” © From Words Facing East. WordTech Editions, 2011.

“In Your Mind you Go to Water,” © North Dakota Quarterly.

“Copper” © From Flight. forthcoming MadHat Press.


written on Qualla Boundary; for C.M.


“Morning Song”: Facing East, a song of praise is offered in the morning. Nogwo sunale nigalsda (now morning has come). Yona (bear) Gvyalielitse Yihowa (I am thankful to you, God) iyugwu (Bring it)