Layli Long Soldier received a BFA from the Institute of American Indian Arts and an MFA from Bard College. She is the author of WHEREAS (Graywolf Press, 2017), which won the 2018 PEN/Jean Stein Book Award and was short-listed for the National Book Award. Long Soldier has received a Lannan Literary Fellowship, a National Artist Fellowship from the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation, and a Whiting Writers’ Award. She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
sign up to receive a new poem-a-day in your inbox
from WHEREAS ["Whereas when offered..."]
WHEREAS when offered an apology I watch each movement the shoulders
high or folding, tilt of the head both eyes down or straight through
me, I listen for cracks in knuckles or in the word choice, what is it
that I want? To feel and mind you I feel from the senses—I read
each muscle, I ask the strength of the gesture to move like a poem.
Expectation’s a terse arm-fold, a failing noun-thing
I scold myself in the mirror for holding.
Because I learn from young poets. One sends me new work spotted
with salt crystals she metaphors as her tears. I feel her phrases,
“I say,” and “Understand me,” and “I wonder.”
Pages are cavernous places, white at entrance, black in absorption.
If I’m transformed by language, I am often
crouched in footnote or blazing in title.
Where in the body do I begin;