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By Joy Harjo

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 thoughts

Jumped through—

We destroyed the world we had been given

For inspiration, for life—

Each stone of jealousy, each stone

Of fear, greed, envy, and hatred, put out the light.

No one was without a stone in his or her hand.

There we were,

Right back where we had started.

We were bumping into each other

In the dark.

And now we had no place to live, since we didn’t know

How to live with each other.

Then one of the stumbling ones took pity on another

And shared a blanket.

A spark of kindness made a light.

The light made an opening in the darkness.

Everyone worked together to make a ladder.

A Wind Clan person climbed out first into the next world,

And then the other clans, the children of those clans, their children,

And their children, all the way through time—

To now, into this morning light to you.

 


Joy Harjo, "Once the World Was Perfect" from Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings.  Copyright © 2015 by Joy Harjo.  Reprinted by permission of W. W. Norton & Company, Inc..

Source: Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings (W. W. Norton & Company Ltd., 2015)

  • Religion

Poet Bio

Joy Harjo
Joy Harjo was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and is a member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. Like a few other contemporary Native American poets such as N. Scott Momaday, Simon Ortiz, and Leslie Marmon Silko, Harjo writes in an effort to re-establish lost connections: with the sacred land, with powerful ancestors, and with fellow searchers along the margins of contemporary life. She is a noted teacher, saxophonist, and vocalist. She performed for many years with her band, Poetic Justice, and currently tours with Arrow Dynamics. She was named U.S. poet laureate in June 2019. See More By This Poet

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