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poetry Amoroleck’s Words

On the anniversary of Columbus’s landing in the Caribbean, Virginia poet Karenne Wood depicts the tragic result for North America’s indigenous people.

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Amoroleck’s Words

By Karenne Wood

You can’t take a man’s words.

They are his even as the land

is taken away

where another man

builds his house.

--Linda Hogan

 

You must’ve been a sight, Captain John Smith,

as your dugout approached

with Jamestown’s men

sporting plumed hats,

poufed knickers, beards, stockings,

funny little shoes.

You might have looked, to us,

well,

uncivilized.

We fought you, we know,

because you wrote it down.

One man was left behind. Wounded.

At your mercy. Among your shining goods—

mirrors, knives, firearms, glass beads—

where was mercy? Maybe you left it

in England. Eager to learn, Captain Smith,

you asked about the worlds he knew,

whether there was gold,

why his people had fought

when you came to them “in love.”

He told you in his dialect,

which no one now speaks.

You recorded his name. His words.

Not his fate.

Of all the words our people spoke

in the year of your Lord 1608,

only his answer remains:

“We heard that you were a people

come from under the world,

to take our world from us.”

 

Karenne Wood is an enrolled member of the Monacan Indian Nation who directs Virginia Indian Programs at the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities. She holds a MFA in poetry and a PhD in linguistic anthropology. She has worked at the National Museum of the American Indian as a researcher and at the Association on American Indian Affairs as a repatriation specialist. In 2015 she was honored as one of Virginia’s Women in History. Karenne is the author of two poetry collections, Markings on Earth (2000) and Weaving the Boundary, (2016).