When we had the Honor the Youth Spiritual Run in June. I stayed in contact with Kevin Abourezk (Lakota) of the Lincoln Journal Star after he'd written an article about the spiritual run. He suggested to me right after the run that I write a poem about the issue of Native youth suicide. I told him that I would do that...
I spent much of this summer contemplating how I would write this poem. In particular, since this is such a topic close to my heart, how do I really write such a poem?
First of all, I interviewed several women. All survivors of sexual abuse and suicide attempts. I started out well enough, but I came to a stop when I realized that I didn't know how to describe what was happening. Instead of forcing the poem, I let it rest for several weeks, until I made a breakthrough on Friday night after meeting underground hiphop artist, Felipe Coronel, better known as Immortal Technique. After hearing Immortal Technique's message in one of his powerful songs, was I able to come to terms with what I needed to do next...
This was not easy to write. I prayed throughout and cried often as I finished it...
For all our Native youth...
Breathing in the Here and Now…
By Renee New Holy
Each day as I awaken anew
I give thanks for this time that I’m living safely
On this earth, our Grandmother
Breathing in the Here and Now…
But I can look back in the years,
When I was young and every moment was a battle to survive…
There were days and nights that often made little sense
Because I was drowning in the onslaught of degradation
Praying for oblivion from any mind numbing substance
And I held together remnants of myself seemingly
With safety pins and duct tape
Old standbys even for the soul…
There were no boundaries respected
How could there be?
When all that we once believed in as a people
Was torn away with little regard for our humanity.
No thought was ever given for the consequences
That all our generations have paid for in blood.
The rapes began with our nations, first.
Our lands, our spirits, our minds, and our dignity
Were stripped away like so much bark from the fallen trees.
This violent legacy continued on, unchecked, unstoppable.
And was passed down from generation to generation in lateral degrees
Like unwanted heirlooms hidden away in shame…
Shame! Because of the shame!
A code was maintained while innocence was blamed!
And silence reigned under more threats of injury
That was held over my head like an executioner’s blade!
Who was there to hear my screams anyway?
When any protest I made was looked upon in mute agony shared by us all
Is there anything akin to rage and despair?
They are familiar friends in impossible moments such as this
A deadly combination that requires darkness for completion
And all the while I danced as my spirit caved in on itself…
I swirled with bright blue lights down into midnight
Where I lay in an abyss of being that had never felt the day…
At last, I thought, with a shiver of relief
I’ve found an escape from the pain and the question
That plays over and over and over, relentlessly asking…
Do I matter to anyone in this life?
There were no responses to this non-rhetorical question,
That caused me such misery just for its very existence.
But my answer came slowly when my eyes blinked open
And the realization that I was still alive confronted me
In this hospital room,
where my tears ran like the River Nishude.
Unrecognizable to anyone who didn’t share the sight.
Doctors came and went in my room.
Then a therapist arrived along with a social worker.
And they began to ask why I tried to take my own life?
Wasn’t I doing well in school?
What was my home situation like?
Was there abuse?
I turned away from their probing questions.
Cutting into me like utility knives, which is what they were to me.
Then I lay in solitude for quite some time under lock and key.
Where solutions to my problems were being discussed
Between all interested parties and others who held a stake in my life.
All I wanted to do was go back to sleep and dream.
Drifting…in a dream of another time, of a voice full of love…
“Return to your life now and get what you need.”
Echoed this voice clearly into my left ear. “Washkon! You’re going to be alright!”
I knew that there was no one else in my room
And only one person in this world ever spoke that way.
She was my aunty who used to always take care of me.
Before all the desolation and destruction entered my life.
In that moment I realized that love exists in any time.
And can heal you..like it healed me...if you allow it too.
A new understanding was given to me that night.
So I made the decision to step back onto the path of life
Knowing that my journey is just beginning
That good health and happiness exists in every breath.
But only if I want it to…when I breathe...breathe...
Breathing in the Here and Now.