Poem: ‘The History of Fire’

This work from leading Native American poet Linda Hogan appeared in Alta’s Winter 2021 issue.

linda hogan, when the light of the world was subdued, our songs came through
Hyoung Chang

From When the Light of the World Was Subdued, Our Songs Came Through: A Norton Anthology of Native Nations Poetry

My mother is a fire beneath stone.
My father, lava.

My grandmother is a match,
my sister straw.

Grandfather is kindling like trees of the world.
My brothers are gunpowder,

and I am smoke with gray hair,
ash with black fingers and palms.

I am wind for the fire.

My dear one is a jar of burned bones
I have saved.

This is where our living goes
and still we breathe,

and even the dry grass
with sun and lightning above it

has no choice but to grow
and then lie down

with no other end in sight.

Air is between these words,
fanning the flame.

Excerpted from When the Light of the World Was Subdued, Our Songs Came Through: A Norton Anthology of Native Nations Poetry, edited by Joy Harjo, and reprinted here with permission of the author.

W.W. Norton & Company
When the Light of the World Was Subdued, Our Songs Came Through: A Norton Anthology of Native Nations Poetry, edited by Jennifer Elise Foerster, Leanne Howe, and Joy Harjo
W.W. Norton & Company Bookshop.org
$18.35

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