By Joy Harjo
Don’t bother the earth spirit who lives here. She is working on a story. It is the oldest story in the world and it is delicate, changing. If she sees you watching she will invite you in for coffee, give you warm bread, and you will be obligated to stay and listen. But this is no ordinary story. You will have to endure earthquakes, lightning, the deaths of all those you love, the most blinding beauty. It’s a story so compelling you may never want to leave; this is how she traps you. See that stone finger over there? That is the only one who ever escaped.
“Don’t Bother the Earth Spirit” from Secrets from the Center of the World by Joy Harjo, with photographs by Stephen Strom. © 1989 The Arizona Board of Regents. Reprinted by permission of the University of Arizona Press.
Source: Secrets from the Center of the World (University of Arizona Press, 1989)
More By This Poet
Once the World Was Perfect
Once the world was perfect, and we were happy in that world.
Then we took it for granted.
Discontent began a small rumble in the earthly mind.
Then Doubt pushed through with its spiked head.
And once Doubt ruptured the web,
All manner of demon...
To pray you open your whole self
To sky, to earth, to sun, to moon
To one whole voice that is you.
And know there is more
That you can’t see, can’t hear;
Can’t know except in moments
Steadily growing, and in languages
That aren’t always sound...
More Poems about Mythology & Folklore
We gathered in a field southwest of town,
several hundred hauling coolers
and folding chairs along a gravel road
dry in August, two ruts of soft dust
that soaked into our clothes
and rose in plumes behind us.
By noon we could discern their massive coils
This disease has come back
With frills and furbelows.
You must give your whole life to poetry
Only a few survive if that—
Poems I mean, paper crumpled
Shades of another water—
Far springs are what you long for,
Listening for the slow drip of chemicals