The Book of the Missing, Murdered and Indigenous – Chapter 1

By M. L. Smoker

—For Natalie Smoker

The winding cord of highways, unkempt
gravel roads and the trails of animals –
a record of who and what has passed over,
an agony of secrets.

In the end, they have all borne witness,
eyes like glass beads that can never blink.
The dull light of motel neon shines ominously.
An engine growls across the landscape.

Brittle men who are splintered like glass
thrown from a second story window
and we are the room they leave behind.
They are pathetic husks, feeble in spirit.

Fragments fall along fields and shallow ditches,
in overlooked alleyways or underpasses.
A cold, empty breeze rising from the debris.
The first and last moment of her.

It is rage that pulls her up from this place.
She spews out the wretched and miserable
as particles of dawn-lit soil illuminate her skin.
Her hair is a two-edged sword.

She stitches together the collective story of origin,
her body a map: descended from the stars,
on the backs of animal sisters,
carried to safety in a bird’s beak.


Film by Monte Nickles and James B. Joyce.

Part of Songs at the Confluence: Indigenous Poets on Place, a digital event produced by Adrian Brinkerhoff Poetry Foundation and Tippet Rise in collaboration with In-Na-Po (Indigenous Nations’ Poets).

Reproduced with permission of the author.