Fear… “I Give You Back…”

By Joy Harjo

I release you, my beautiful and terrible fear.  I release you.

You were my beloved and hated twin, but now, I don’t see you as myself.

I release you with all the pain I would know at the death of my children.

I give you back to the white soldiers who burned down my home, beheaded my children, raped and sodomized my brothers and sisters.

I give you back to those who stole the food from our plates while we were starving.

I release you fear, because you hold these scenes in front of me and I was born with eyes that can never close.

I release you fear, so you can no longer keep me naked and frozen in the winter, or smothered under blankets in the summer.

I release you. I release you. I release you. I release you.

I am not afraid to be angry.

I am not afraid to rejoice.

I am not afraid to be black.

I am not afraid to be white.

I am not afraid to be hungry.

I am not afraid to be full.

I am not afraid to be hated.

I am not afraid to be loved, to be loved, to be loved, to be loved.

Fear… Oh, you have choked me, but I gave you the leash.

You have gutted me but I gave you the knife.

You have devoured me but I laid myself across the fire.

I take myself back fear.

You are not my shadow any longer; I won’t hold you in my hands.

You can’t live in my eyes, my ears, my voice, by belly, or in my heart, my heart, my heart…

But come here,  fear

I am alive and you are so afraid of dying.

Published on Diversity-Threads with permission from Joy Harjo, 2019

Published in How We Became Human: New and Selected Poems: 1975 – 2001 (W.W. Norton and Company Inc., 2002)