The White-Haired Women Would Sing for Us

In my country, when I was a girl
it was different. Yes, it was different
in my country, when I was a girl.

Now, there is like here. My sisters
tell me this happens, since the farms died.
My sisters tell me this happens: the farms
have died, and there is like here, now.

My country has water. Your soldiers drank
that water but left poison in the ground. Soon
we could not drink from our well. Poison
was there. This country has water. Soldiers
have come back. Now they are here, drinking.

There, then, the grandmothers could tell us
what to do. We would ask them to dream for us.
They always knew the past; they knew the future.
Our grandmothers knew the past and future
there, they could tell us what to do, there. When
we asked them to dream for us, they would tell us.

There, then, the white-haired grandmothers danced.
They would move like the corn, like wildflowers.
The white-haired women would sing for us then.
When we sang for them to dance, the white-haired
women would dance for all of us. The grandmothers
could move like flowers; they moved like cornsilk.
They danced to tell us how to be, tell us what to be.

When we came here, they would not come. We sang
begging songs, pleading songs. We wanted them here
with us. We tried to bring them here, with us. They said
they should not come, dancing slowly beside the wells.
They danced how they could not live outside that land.
They said they would die if they came here. Oh! So much
we wanted them, wanted to bring them with us, here.
When we came here, our grandmothers would not come.

Judith Arcana

About Judith Arcana

Judith Arcana writes poems, stories, essays and books. One of her stories about abortion & tattoos came out as a zine in 2013 (Keesha and Joanie and JANE); two others are online at Serving House Journal. Her 2012 poetry chapbook is The Parachute Jump Effect, and her Maude poems, a project supported by grants from Oregon’s Regional Arts and Culture Council and Portland’s Celebration Foundation, are part of her new manuscript, Nickel Heart. Judith recently had a sandwich named for her at the lovely&amazing Fleur de Lis Bakery/Café in Portland, Oregon. Listen to her read on SoundCloud; visit
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