Worried Warrior

Volume 28, No. 3 - Spring 2017
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OUR FIRES STILL BURN BY KEVIN S. BRIEN

Artwork: Our Fires Still Burn by Kevin S. Brien of Turtle Mountain Community College

I am a worrier of life
of time
of most everything
I worry about the simple things, the common things and the things
most people don’t
I worry about space
I worry about taking too much of it
I worry about my sister’s sand skin shifting through her fingers
I worry about how loud silence can be
I worry about goodbyes and not having the chance to say them
I worry about my culture and how it’s dying
I worry about wanting to die in a world that’s already trying to kill
me off
I worry about those who feel the same.

Why does this worry me?

Every 40 seconds, 1 person in this world dies by suicide.
2,160 lives in one day caused by suicide alone
a quarter of which are Native American.

I guess it’s true what they say
“time waits for no one”
but then there’s the saying that
“time heals all wounds”
so exactly which saying do you listen to
when it feels like the hands on your clock don’t move?

Don’t listen to any of them
just listen to the ticking
and how the clock doesn’t slow
no matter how long you look at it.

Knowing that suicide rates among indigenous people
are higher than the national average worries me
because of my friends and family who have depression or anxiety
and all I want to know
is that they will have a fighting chance,
that they will be strong enough to get through it.

I have hope
that just like linear time, we will not slow
that we will keep going like our ancestors before us.
To the worriers like me,
I am not asking you to stop worrying
but I am asking that you trust me
believe me when I say
that it’ll be okay

We might be worriers of life
but we are warriors too
remember that.

Chant your cry of
I AM STILL HERE.
Cry if you need to,
remember to breathe,
this air is for you.

There is no noose on your neck,
no word victim imprinted in your spine or thighs
no gun pointed to your head,
no scars on your skin

You are not defined by the number of times you wanted to die.

To the warriors
who did not see today through,
I wish your life wasn’t a promise you couldn’t keep.
I wish you didn’t have to leave so soon.

You will be remembered.

To the warriors who are still alive,
please stay that way.
Tomorrow will be a whole new battle,
but today, you are still here and that is enough.

Thank you for fighting the fight,
for continuing your story
and all your bright.

Scarlett Cortez is a student at the Institute of American Indian Arts and the 2016 AIHEC slam poet laureate.


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