This Poem Is Taking Place on Stolen Land

Emily Clarke
vol. 3, August/September 2021

You arrive slick like oil and spill
yourselves over these mountains
you claim are God-given.

“Occupy everywhere” was the slogan,

as protest tent cities proliferated

around the capitals of the Global North

Imagine our embarrassment when First

Nations and indigenous activists turned

up at Zucotti Park and pointed out, with

what in retrospect was near-super-

human grace, that the land in question

was, in fact, already occupied.

It Was That Or Starve,” Laurie Penny

Privilege is born in this pristine wilderness
and you tear into it with fangs, starved
for power you cannot carry.  

God whispers sweet nothings into your ear 
and you get paid for a bloodied pair of ours. 
I have made this land just for you. 

You say these California rivers run gold
as you bend to rinse your hands of digger 
blood in the gentle splash. 

You divide what’s left of us onto shrinking soil 
and pluck acorns and yucca blossoms from our fists.
We are sun-dried gills, rising and falling.

Somehow, tamít still rises, teaching us
that broken and bloodied jaws don’t get the worm,
will never get the worm, are the worm. 

We are the sinners, the conquered, the pests
of our own land. We are damned and displaced, destined 
to mourn the land our beating hearts were molded from. 

We have the seeds of renewal: our

unikta, sewn into the hems of our

grandmother’s dresses, carried to

new homes, passed by hand to people

with a heart to nurture soil for

them, plant them and care for them

as the ancestors they are.

So, You Have Too Many People to Feed,” Nico Albert

But we survived your savagery, 
like white sage we regrow in these valleys,
tending to earth’s wounds. 

We are poppies unbloomed, eagle wings open,
you cut our tongues but still we sing,
praying for grasses no longer remembered. 

Emily Clarke is a Cahuilla Native American writer, student, bead artist, activist, cordage instructor, and traditional Bird Dancer. Emily’s work has been featured in News From Native California, Four Winds Literary Journal, Anti Heroin Chic, and Hoot Review. She has been a featured reader at Indigenous Now, Palm Springs Art Museum Second Sundays, and UCLA’s Environmentalists of Color Climate Justice Forum. Emily is studying Creative Writing at UC Riverside and working towards a full length collection of poetry depicting her experience as a Cahuilla Native American woman living in 21st century American society. ​

Editorial support by Ben Huberman.