be gentle with yourself

or not.

spend the next eight months

beating yourself up

because you took a leap

and want to forget

that you were brave for a moment

remember the last time

you held unblinking eye contact

as a challenge

to a man sitting across from you

remember when you broke that eye contact

because you were afraid

of being challenging

and you have learned

that the only way you can be angry

is when you’re silent

and small

and you have been taught that

your anger

should never hold its own space

i thought being soft

was supposed to make me beautiful

but tenderness doesn’t work for me

so i guess we will have to get used to

personal boundaries being negotiated like treaty lines


don’t let them cross your rivers

remember the last apology letter

you received

from someone who should have apologized

a year before

but you accepted it

and instead of reminding them

that you’re not ceded territory

you made sure

to hold them with your words

making sure

that you never made them feel as bad

as they made you feel

i think it gets lost in translation

from my language to yours

that just because i have avoided being tender

does not mean

that i don’t seek tenderness

but how am i supposed to be tender

when i have been taught

to never make eye contact with a rougarou

and there are wolves in every forest


you are more

than forced niceness

remember the last time

you had to seek justice


whispering secrets to other iskwewak

making sure that

justice was swift

but silent

because you can’t let

your justice be loud

and violent

because you have to ensure

that your kin are protected

from fallout

so you whisper your secrets

to the rivers and lakes

hoping that these stories will

float downstream



that you don’t have to pick up the pieces

of others

and sew them back together

with sinew that is meant for you

remember how you

have spent your life

raising grown trees

when you should have been worried


tending your own roots


you can’t teach someone

to love you

in the ways that you need

they need to teach themselves

how to whisper into the dark

to find their answers

like you have done

since you were an awasis








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