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About this poet

Laura Da’ studied at the University of Washington and the Institute of American Indian Arts. She is the author of Instruments of the True Measure, which is forthcoming from the University of Arizona Press in 2018, and Tributaries (University of Arizona Press, 2015), which received an American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation.  She is the recipient of fellowships from Hugo House and the Jack Straw Writers Program. Da’ who is Eastern Shawnee, lives near Seattle, Washington.

Passive Voice

I use a trick to teach students
how to avoid passive voice.

Circle the verbs.
Imagine inserting “by zombies”
after each one.

Have the words been claimed
by the flesh-hungry undead?
If so, passive voice.

I wonder if these
sixth graders will recollect,
on summer vacation,
as they stretch their legs
on the way home
from Yellowstone or Yosemite
and the byway’s historical marker
beckons them to the
site of an Indian village—

Where trouble was brewing.
Where, after further hostilities, the army was directed to enter.
Where the village was razed after the skirmish occurred.
Where most were women and children.

Riveted bramble of passive verbs
etched in wood—
stripped hands
breaking up from the dry ground
to pinch the meat
of their young red tongues.

From Tributaries (University of Arizona Press, 2015). Copyright © 2015 by Laura Da’. Used with the permission of the author.

From Tributaries (University of Arizona Press, 2015). Copyright © 2015 by Laura Da’. Used with the permission of the author.

Laura Da'

Laura Da’

Laura Da’ is the author of Instruments of the True Measure, which is forthcoming from the University of Arizona Press in 2018, and Tributaries (University of Arizona Press, 2015). She lives near Seattle, Washington.

by this poet

poem

Seneca, Missouri—soft wash of casino jangle
seeps through the Pontiac’s cracked window.

The map flutters on the dashboard,
one corner grit-soaked.

Sparse Ozark wash of tawny green.
A herd of buffalo lowing in the side pasture.

Here is the voyage,
conjured homeland to conjured

poem

Mapping out territory
in 1984—
            my older cousin
                        ditched me
in the scrub brush behind our granny’s house

locked in a dog crate, five years old,
                        howling.

Nine years ago, I taught her oldest child
how to write her name

poem

In Shawnee cosmology,
a shooting star can fall to earth as a mythical panther.

            Tecumseh—
            phonetic approximation of an Algonquian name:
            Shooting Star,
            One Who Waits,
            Crouching Panther.

The first cultural event in