Tsalagi Poems

I have posted a few of my Cherokee poems. I may post some short stories and excerpts later.

the long man

grandfather, the Long Man, came down from the hills
to the green valleys of the Smokey Mountains,
where grandmother sent her love in the four directions,
giving life to our mother Selu, and our father Kanati,
and the cedar tree and the strawberry,
the swiftly running deer, the hare in the underbrush,
the tiny thrush with throbbing heart.

beside the river I married the white-skinned stranger,
and he lived with me in my mother’s house,
and we bathed each morning in the icy waters
and said our prayers to the spirit of creation,
counting our sorrows on dogwood blossoms
until the soldiers came with their guns,
and forced us to leave the old man behind.

I no longer say my prayers to the Long Man.
my children speak the white man Jesus’ tongue;
the rivers that once healed our red souls
have no use but to wash away the wastes
–the shit, the pesticides and the pcbs–
and my yearning to go home again
is just the ghost of ancestor’s whispering.

Categorized as Poetry

By Duane Poncy

Duane Poncy is a lifelong political, social and literary activist. He lives and writes fiction in Portland, Ore­gon, where he lives with his wife, Patricia. His latest novel is Skyrmion: Book One of the Sweetland Quartet. He is also the co-author, with Patricia J McLean, of Bartlett House, A Will Adelhardt/Lucy Hidalgo Mystery, and the forthcoming Ghosts of Saint-Pierre. He is an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation. Find me on Mastodon: @duanep@writing.exchange.

1 comment

  1. Hi Patricia and Duane,

    I am in the process of finishing a short (20 minute) non-profit educational film for high-school students on Indian (Cherokee) removal (funded by Oklahoma and Arkansas Humanities Councils and the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation).

    I saw your family relationship to Rebecca Neugin…

    We use Rebecca Neugin in voiceover- & I am trying to fact-check the family pronunciation of the last name. Could you tell me whether it’s a soft “G” or a hard G & whether there’s any emphasis as in “NEW- gin” ? or New-G-in? At the moment we’ve got the “gin” part as in “to begin.”

    Much appreciated,


    Gilles Carter (917) 612-4334
    New Haven, CT

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